Obesity is one of the greatest health concerns facing dogs. You can and should do something about it. Overweight dogs may live shorter and less healthy lives and your enjoyment of their unconditional love and companionship may be shortened because of it.
Extra pounds place an excess burden on bones and joints and can make arthritis problems worse. Overweight dogs are less able to exercise and play comfortably and their breathing may be labored. Their bodies may be less able to resist infections, and they may be at greater risk for problems during surgery and anesthesia.
Potential health problems include:
- Joint or Locomotion Difficulties. Extra pounds add stress to joints, bones, ligaments and muscles. Conditions such as arthritis, hip dysplasia, spinal disc disease and ruptures of joint ligaments may be caused or aggravated by obesity.
- Heart and Respiratory Disease. Excess fat tissue in the chest cavity and around the muscles of the heart can decrease the efficiency of the heart and lungs. Your dog’s heart and lungs have to work harder to provide adequate oxygen and circulation.
- Diabetes. Just as in humans, diabetes is much more common in obese dogs.
- Liver Disease. Obese dogs are prone to liver disease.
- Heat Intolerance. The insulating properties of excessive fat make it harder for obese dogs to tolerate heat and they feel uncomfortable.
- Skin Problems. Obese dogs may have trouble grooming because the rolls of skin built up by fat deposits can often harbor dirt, bacteria and other harmful organisms.
- Gastrointestinal Disorders. Inflammation of the pancreas is frequently found in obese dogs. It is painful and can be life threatening.
How Dogs Become Overweight?
Dogs most always become overweight from lack of good exercise and from eating more food than they require. Food calories, which aren’t burned during their daily activities, are stored as fat.
Overeating can result from greediness, boredom, or overfeeding. Feeding leftovers or giving frequent snacks or treats often contributes to excess weight problems.
Over-fed puppies tend to become overweight dogs. They also have a greater risk of developing orthopedic problems. Properly feed puppies will be less likely to suffer from weight problems later in life.
Occasionally, metabolic disorders can cause a dog to become overweight. But overfeeding and under exercising are much more common causes of excess weight. If your veterinarian suspects that a metabolic disorder is causing your dog to gain weight, he or she will test for that disorder and treat it accordingly.
How Can I Tell if My Dog is Overweight?
A quick check to determine whether your dog is overweight is to feel his ribs with the flat palm of your hand. If you have difficulty feeling his ribs, then your dog probably needs to lose weight.
Helping Your Dog Lose Weight.
Weight loss for most dogs involves increased exercise and eating food with fewer calories. It’s generally easier to feed normal amounts of a low-calorie dog food than to feed much smaller amounts of his/her regular dog food. In addition, your dog will not feel as hungry when fed a normal amount of food.
Dieting for Dogs.
Your vet will help set a weight goal for your dog and will recommend how much food he should eat each day. A special diet may also be prescribed. The food choice should be designed to satisfy your dog’s appetite and provide him all the vitamins and minerals he needs while at the same time helping him to lose weight.
Your dog may need a gradual transition from the old to the new diet. So, you would feed him increasing amounts of the new diet while decreasing the amounts of the previous diet each day over several days until the transition is complete.
To help keep your dog from begging, feed him before your family eats, and keep him out of the room during your meal. It is also a good idea to feed overweight dogs at the same time as other pets to help prevent food stealing from their slimmer companions. Always provide plenty of clean, fresh drinking water.
Regular exercise, such as walks or runs, is good for most dogs because it increases the number of calories they burn. If your dog is old or in poor health, check with your vet before increasing exercise.
The time period your dog will require to lose weight depends upon how much weight he is required to lose. Your dog may need 8 to 14 weeks or longer to reach his target weight.
What Type of Dog Food is Good for Weight Control?
A dieting dog has special nutritional needs. His diet should be balanced with a proper ratio of protein, fat and carbohydrates. The diet should also provide a normal volume of food to satisfy his hunger and the food should also provide quality nutrients.
Weight loss plans don’t need to include high levels of fiber. Fiber is not necessary for weight loss in pets, and in large amounts, it may have side effects such as increased feces and lack of interest in the food because of its poor taste.
Always consult with your vet before you start a weight loss program for your dog.