Excessive Weight in Dogs
Excessive Weight in Dogs (or simply obesity) is a nutritional disease which is defined by an excess of body fat. Obesity and overweight are not the same thing! As body weight is easier to measure than trying to measure body fat, people use body weight as a guide to determine whether a dog is overweight or obese. Dogs are considered overweight when they weight 10-20% above their ideal body weight. Dogs are considered obese when they weigh 20% or more above their ideal body weight. Obesity isn't something to ignore. It can result a lot of serious health conditions and reduce your dogs' lifespan. Obesity is common in dogs of all ages, but most common it occurs in middle-aged dogs (5-10 years of age). Obesity is a serious problem. Approximately 25-30% of all dogs are obese, with 40-45% of dogs aged 5-11 years old weighing in higher than normal.
There are a few causes of obesity. Usually obesity is a result of imbalance between the energy intake and its usage – when the dog eats more food than it can expend. Feeding the dog high-calorie food can contribute to development of obesity. Other common causes are neutering/spaying, insulinoma (a tumor of the pancreas), hypothyroidism (a condition in which thyroid gland doesn't produce enough of certain crucial hormones), etc.
Symptoms of obesity are easy to notice: weight gain, the inability or unwillingness to exercise, to run, little or no visible waistline, no palpable ribcage, excess body fat, physical changes in general, etc.
As already said, people use body weight as a guide to determine whether a dog is overweight or even obese. The veterinarian exams the dog, palpating its ribs, lumbar area, head and tail. The result of this examination is compared with the breed standard. Normally, the ribs and spine should be easy to feel. If you cannot easily feel your pets' ribs or spine, and your pet has tubular shape because of its thickened waist, most probably your dog is obese.
Obesity is dangerous, and many different conditions can occur as a result of obesity. Those conditions are: decreased stamina, exercise intolerance, heat intolerance, breathing difficulty, diabetes, high blood pressure, liver disease, osteoarthritis (you can read more about osteoarthritis here), increased risk of developing malignant tumors, etc. Overweight and obese dogs also have extra skin folds, which can cause skin problems accompanied with irritation and infection by bacteria. All of these are frightening, but probably the most terrified thing usually is a result of obesity, decreased life span. An overweight or obese dogs' lifespan is approximately 2.5 years shorter.
There are a few thing that usually combined lead to obesity: feeding your pet more than it can expand in exercise, lack of exercise, misconception of the dogs body condition where some owners do not even recognize that their dog is obese, age, genetic predisposition - studies suggest that some dog breeds (including terrier breeds, spaniels, dachshunds, beagles and Labrador retrievers) have a higher chance of becoming overweight and obese than others. Also, neutered/spayed dogs have reduced production of sex hormones, which decreases energy expenditure and can cause changes in satiety (increased hunger). Certain medications may also contribute to obesity in dogs.
If you are suspecting that your dog may be overweight or obese, don't hesitate to take it to the vet. After the diagnosis is set, follow your vets' instructions and do everything you can to achieve a healthy weight of your dog. Change your dogs' food regiment, replace its food with some low calorie one (today, there are many scientifically formulated nutritional products to help with healthy and safe weight reduction in dogs) , increase daily walks, play more with your dog outside, when training your dog try rewarding it with some healthy snacks rather than high calorie treats, etc. If your dog eats fast, you can buy it special bowl that requires the pet to work to get each piece of food, thus slowing down the speed of food intake. But, make sure that dietary changes must be made gradually in order not to upset the gastrointestinal tract.
FUN FACT: Try taking your dog to swim. Swimming is low-impact and can build muscles and burn calories.
It doesn’t take much for a dog to become overweight or obese. Keep a close eye and on the first sign of these conditions talk to your veterinarian and take adequate measures to achieve a healthy weight of your dog. A maintenance diet and exercise schedule should be followed for the life of the dog.
World Dog Finder team