Are Show Dogs Fat?
Last year, following the Westminster Dog Show, we wrote a series of articles expressing our concern over the overweight appearance of the Labradors in the show. The first was No Wonder a Lab has Never Won at Westminster. We followed that up with an article looking into the changes in Labrador’s appearance in recent history from strong, lean and fit sporting dogs to the pudgy dogs you see in the ring now (When did Overweight Labs Become the New Normal?). We even took a look at the Cruft’s winners from last year to see how they compared. Cruft’s is the UK’s version of Westminister. While they weren’t quite as lean and fit as Labradors from 30-40 years ago, they appeared more fit than the US dogs.
We took a lot of heat from dog show folks regarding our concerns and our assertion that extra pounds on your dog, even a few, may lead to health issues and reduced longevity – just as it does in humans. They seemed to miss one of the essential point of our piece which was our fear that the example these overweight dogs set for regular pet owners is detrimental to their health. We were accused of being PETA fanatics and anti-pedigree/purebreed which is so far from the truth, we didn’t even bother responding. To be honest, we were a little surprised by the reaction as we naively thought everyone would want their dogs to be the fittest and healthiest they could be and since we control the amount of food our dog eats, controlling their weight is our duty and responsibility.
Crufts Dogs are Overweight
We were quite interested to read of some recent research by doctors at the Small Animal Teaching Hospital at the University of Liverpool in the UK. The study, (Best in show but not best shape: a photographic assessment of show dog body condition) lead by Dr. Alex German, reported alarming rates of overweight dogs among the Cruft’s top show dogs. The team analyzed photos of over 1,000 of the top winners and found a startling 26% appeared to be overweight. That’s a huge percentage of dogs carrying extra weight – particularly dogs who are supposed to be the BEST REPRESENTATION of their breed.
Dr. German expressed our exact thoughts about this: “The results are concerning because show dogs are assumed to be perfect specimens of their breed and, if significant numbers are overweight, this may ‘normalise’ obesity in the eyes of the public”. When overweight becomes normal, then everyone becomes overweight!
The team found a whopping 63% of Labradors were overweight (even higher for Pugs and Basset Hounds). It’s great to see such a frank evaluation of body condition as it relates to the health of the dog by trained medical professionals. Even just a few extra pounds is detrimental to your dog’s health and well being. It leaves them more susceptible to a variety health issues such as diabetes, arthritis and even cancer. We provide a SHORT list of resources at the end of this post on canine health issues related to weight.
I realize we are preaching to the choir here as most of our regular readers are already diligent about keeping their dogs fit and healthy, but hopefully as more and more is written on this topic, we can influence pet owners not to judge their dog’s appearance by the show dogs, but rather use their own good judgement and the assessment of their veterinarian when it comes to evaluating their dog’s weight. We’d also love to see a group of US veterinary specialists take the same critical look at Westminster and other US dog show winners and maybe get the attention of the AKC and maybe their judges will stop rewarding the extremes.
Obviously, we’ve got plenty of great information here on SlimDoggy.com for assessing your dog’s weight, exercises to help them stay fit and dog food advice for feeding them the most nutritious food that you can.