It seems like it’s not just us two-legged animals who have been waging a battle against obesity – turns out our pets are fighting the same war… and losing!
According to CBS affiliate KCNC, a study conducted in part by vets at the University of Georgia shows that more than half of pets in the U.S. are overweight and 55% of dogs qualify as obese.
What is Obesity?
Obesity is a nutritional disease which is defined by an excess of body fat. Dogs that are over-fed, lack exercise/the ability to exercise, or that tend to retain weight (especially house dogs), are the most at risk for becoming obese.
Multiple areas of the body are affected by excess body fat, including the bones and joints, the digestive organs, and the organs responsible for breathing capacity.
Obesity is common in dogs of all ages, but it usually occurs in middle-aged dogs, and generally in those between the ages of 5 and 10.
Obesity is not only a weight-bearing issue for your canine companions; It can also lead to secondary health complications, ranging from malnourishment to arthritis and can significantly reduce their lifespan.
Health Risks in Overweight & Obese Dogs
Just like humans, dogs carrying extra pounds of weight place extra demands on virtually all the organs of their bodies, as well as their digestive systems. When we overload these organs, disease and sometimes death are the consequences. The health risks to overweight dogs are serious and every dog owner should be aware of them.
The most common consequence in overweight dogs is the development of serious joint issues. The bones, joints, muscles, and associated tendons and ligaments all work together to give the dog smooth and efficient movement. If they are required to carry excess weight, they lose the ease of flow & flexibility, increase wear & tear and become damaged.
Arthritis can develop as your dog gets older and the pain and joint changes associated with this and Hip Dysplasia can become markedly more severe with excess weight. Suitable supplements may be used in conjunction with a weight loss program, to help ease the pain and enable them to enjoy playtime again – an ideal way to burn off some extra canine calories!
The Most Common Obesity-Related Conditions for Dogs
- Arthritis & Poor Joint Health
- Torn Knee Ligaments
- Heart & Respiratory Disease
- Chronic Kidney Disease
- Bladder/Urinary Tract Disease
- Low Thyroid Hormone Production
- Liver Disease
- Diseased Disc in the Spine
“There’s just more of my dog to love!”
Well, there’s no arguing with that BUT wouldn’t you prefer your furry best friend to have a longer, healthier and happier life?
Now, let’s be honest, even ultra-smart canines can’t get the lid off the cookie jar themselves and most dogs love food so much they never know when to stop eating. So, aside from the few dogs suffering specific diseases that can cause weight gain, we, as responsible dog-owners, have total control over what they eat. We see them every day, know what and how often they eat and what exercise they do. So, there is no-one better placed to notice if your pooch is getting a bit podgy!
Other simple steps to help keep a pet’s weight in check include:
- Don’t feed your pet table scraps
- Serve the correct food measure recommended for your pet, not just what’s written on the dog food label
- Understand when to switch from puppy to adult food
- Limit treats and ensure they are healthy treats. Normally, they should not be more than 10% of your dog’s daily nutrition, but if you are using more treats for reinforcement training, then just reduce one of their meals
- Establish a realistic exercise regimen. Ideally, dogs should have at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. However, if your dog is overweight and under-exercised, DO NOT throw your pooch into vigorous activities such as chase & retrieve ball or frisbee. If their weight issue has rendered them couch potatoes, you may do more harm than good, so consult your veterinarian first to agree a specific weight management and exercise program.
- You should be able to see your dogs waistline or run your fingers across their rib cage and feel the bones with out pushing down on your dog.As a basic guideline, you should be able You should be able to see your dogs waistline or run your fingers across their rib cage and feel the bones with out pushing down on your dog.to see their waistline or run your hands over their ribcage and feel the bones without having to press down on your dog.
“Are table scraps really so bad for my dog?”
I know it’s so hard to resist! You hear a whine from under the dinner table and there’s your dog, looking at you with those soulful eyes, longing for you to give them a piece of whatever it is you’re eating. It wouldn’t be so bad if it was a carrot or a banana, but sometimes you may have less healthy things on your plate, like pizza or cookies. Unfortunately, once you’ve set such a precedent for doggie table manners,I’m afraid you’ve made a rod for your own back!
“What harm can a little cookie do?” I hear you cry.
The problem is that, given the size difference between humans and our canine companions, a small portion of something for us can almost constitute a meal for your dog in terms of calories. To put this into perspective, let’s look at a common example of a human snack and the caloric equivalent if fed to a 20lb dog. (So, the smaller the dog, the bigger the equivalent!) …
1 small oatmeal cookie to a 20lb dog is the same as a human eating a hamburger or a large bar of chocolate!
A little of what you fancy does you good!
I don’t think for one minute that any responsible dog owner would overfeed their beloved pet with table scraps, if they knew it would have life-threatening health issues. The fact is that people get joy from sharing their food with their furry best friends and dogs love receiving ‘treats’ from their owner.
So, I’m not suggesting we deny ourselves this mutual pleasure, it’s just a case of moderation and only giving them suitable low-fat scraps. Or replace table scraps with healthy low-calorie dog treats instead, such as carrots (great for teeth too!) or sliced apple (great source of Vitamins A & C BUT no core or seeds please!).
Definitely DO NOT throw them cooked bones, as these can break and leave a jagged edge that can scratch or puncture a dog’s esophagus or gastrointestinal system.
What do veterinarians have to say on the matter?
Many veterinarians dislike the idea of feeding table scraps to dogs for 3 main reasons:
- If scraps are all you feed your dog, or they have so many it puts them off their normal food, then they won’t get the nutritional balanced diet required to maintain good health and wellbeing.
- Vets often see dogs with pancreatitis, which can occur when a dog eats rich food they’re not used to, such as table scraps that contain lots of fat. Needless to say, the number of pancreatitis cases soar after Thanksgiving and other “special occasion” meals, when your pooch may be receiving additional “foodie scraps” from your additional house guests too!
- Many people could accidentally feed them something that is toxic to dogs, such as chocolate or grapes – or dangerous, such as cooked bones. Click here tosee list of toxic foods
I hope this article helps anybody that is concerned about their furry best friend’s weight, but if you have any concerns, please consult with your veterinarian.
Wishing you and your canine companions the best of health – always!
Helen Broadley & The FidoActive Team
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