Obesity is the most common preventable disease among dogs in North America and the UK. Almost half of all dogs in these countries are considered clinically overweight. It’s up to us as responsible pet owners to put the health of our dog first, and understand the issues and illnesses being overweight can cause them.
What is obesity in dogs?
Obesity is caused by excess body fat. Dogs are overweight when they weigh 10-20% above their ideal body weight. They’re considered obese when they weigh 20% or more above their ideal body weight.
What are the risks of obesity?
Heavier dogs live on average 1-2 years less than lean dogs. Scientific evidence has now proven that fat tissue releases inflammatory hormones and the stress chemical; cortisol, both of which contribute to the development of diseases.
Causes of obesity in dogs
Overindulging in treats, excessive feeding, and lack of regular exercise, are the usual causes of obesity in dogs. Dogs are unable to easily regulate how much they eat, so they can easily exceed their food intake without ever realizing it.
There are also some underlying illnesses which may cause a dog to put on excessive amounts of weight. Hypothyroidism; is an issue with an under-active thyroid gland, which can reduce a dog’s metabolism, causing them to suffer from lethargy, leading to weigh gain.
Musculoskeletal conditions, such as arthritis, can reduce a dog’s ability to exercise, thus leading them to easily put on excessive weight. Heart and respiratory disease can also cause problems, since they also make it harder for a dog to run and walk regularly, which helps them stay lean.
Age related fluid retention, pregnancy, and abdominal tumours, are all health conditions that can make dogs appear overweight when they’re not.
Health risks being overweight can cause your dog:
- Musculoskeletal problems such as arthritis, ligament strain, and osteoarthritis
- Heart disease and hypertension
- Skin diseases
- Liver failure
- Urinary infections
What is the ideal body shape for a dog?
If you hold your hand out flat with your palm facing down, and run your fingers of the opposite hand over your over your knuckles, this is how your dog’s ribs should feel. When stroking your hands along the side of your dog’s body you should be able to feel each rib easily, although they shouldn’t be sticking out too far.
When looking at your dog from above, there should be a slight narrowing between the end of their ribcage and their hips, showing an obvious waist.
Top Ways to Keep the Weight Off Your Dog
- Prevention: Preventing obesity is much easier than getting a dog to lose weight. Be sure that everyone who encounters your dog knows not to give them treats. Also ensure your garbage is secure and inaccessible to your pet.
- Cut out treats: Offer your pet portions of their daily food allowance as treats. Certain vegetables and fruits can be a great alternative to shop-bought treats, but ensure you avoid foods that are known to be dangerous to dogs.
- Balanced diet: For a dog to lose weight, their calorie intake needs to be cut by up to 60 per cent. Use scales to weigh out their daily food allowance every morning. You can also divide their daily food allowance into several small meals to offer throughout the day, so your dog feels they are not eating any less than usual.
If your dog is on a wet food diet, bulk it up with raw or boiled vegetables rather than mixer biscuits; this will give them extra roughage, vitamins and minerals, but without an excessive number of additional calories.
- Regular exercise: Activity levels must be built up gradually. Encouraging play and games is a great way to increase your dog’s activity levels. Buy a new ball or take a new route on your daily walks, anything to keep it interesting. If you and your dog enjoy the weight loss process, it is much more likely that you will both consistently follow it, and your dog will not regain the weight they’ve worked so hard to lose.