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Dog Obesity & How to Manage It

December 21, 2021

As pet parents, we've all been in a situation where we are quietly enjoying our dinner and a pair of puppy eyes are just staring at us, waiting for a bite off our plate. Sharing food with your canine friend is a love language for many pet parents. But free-feeding could be harmful to your pets in more than one way. Dog obesity is a growing concern among pet parents as it can quickly be triggered and can inculcate a habit in your dog to eat more than physically required. 

How do I know whether my dog is overweight?

One of the most simple ways to determine whether your dog is obese is to press against his/her sides. A dog that is obese will have excess fat around the ribs, waist absent, and no abdominal tuck.

Dog Obesity

Obesity in human beings can cause many uncomfortable and problematic conditions. Just like that, dog obesity can expose our pets to a lot of difficult health conditions.

Here are a few reasons why it’s very important to keep your dog’s weight in check:

Possible Heart problems

When a dog is overweight, the maximum amount of strain falls on the heart. Dog obesity causes the heart to work twice as hard to pump blood to all parts of the body. This can lead to conditions like heart disease, altered heart structure, irregular heart rate, and the cardiac muscle’s inability to contract properly. In most cases, obesity that affects the heart is hard to treat entirely.

Cancer

Dog obesity can lead to the development of certain tumours in a dog's body - mammary tumours, liposarcoma and transitional cell carcinoma. It also predisposes your dog to a range of other cancers - liver, pancreas, stomach, and thyroid. Just like that of the heart, cancer is almost always more challenging to treat in obese dogs. 

Arthritis & other hip & joint issues

Just like humans, extra weight in dogs puts pressure on their knees, waist, and joints. It can lead to painful inflammation of the joints and cause arthritis. Dogs with arthritis have decreased mobility and are far more lethargic and sluggish compared to other obese dogs. 

Diabetes - Type 2

Type 2 Diabetes is one of the direct consequences of dog obesity. Dogs that are overweight have a higher chance of having insulin resistance. As a result - their metabolisms are drastically reduced, and they require higher doses of insulin therapy. 

Skin diseases

Because of the excessive folds in an obese dog, the skin becomes irritated and often infected by bacteria. This leads to redness, dryness, itching, body odour, and an unhealthy coat.

High blood pressure

Dog obesity-induced hypertension is relatively common in the recent decade. When your dog is overweight, his/her heart needs to work twice as hard to pump blood to all the parts of his body. All this additional effort puts added pressure on his arteries. High blood pressure can lead to strokes, heart attacks, and in some cases, seizures.

Thyroid issue 

Obesity can severely affect and alter the functioning of the thyroid gland of your dog. When leptin levels rise due to obesity, it makes the body susceptible to thyroid autoimmunity and hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism leads to seizures, anxiety, possible depression, and strokes.

Reduced life expectancy [by two and a half years]

Research shows that obesity takes away almost two and a half years from a dog. Since obesity predisposes a dog to several medical conditions - curable and incurable, the life expectancy of a dog is invariably reduced.

[Reference]

Reduced quality of life

A five-year-old obese dog isn't the same as a five-year-old healthy dog. Obesity takes away a dog's ability and enthusiasm to play, run, chase etc. It is hard to carry around all the extra weight, which is why they get tired or exhausted, almost too quickly and less enthusiastic about playing.

Respiratory disease

Have you ever noticed how young obese dogs pant so heavily just after a brief walk? Obese dogs are more inclined to have collapsed trachea and laryngeal paralysis, both of which cause fatal respiratory failures 95% of the time if left untreated.

Kidney disease

Diabetes and high blood pressure are the two leading causes of kidney disease in dogs. Besides, extra weight results in added stress on the kidneys causing them to work harder than the average level. Dogs with kidney disease have reduced life expectancies, intestinal bleeding, and sometimes, seizures.

Lethargy

Lethargy, lack of curiosity, no motivation, and low levels of energy are all direct and indirect results of dog obesity. When your dog is lethargic, his/her metabolism slows down to below average, and this can sometimes lead to heart problems, liver problems, diabetes, and kidney disease. 

How to help your dog lose weight

Weight management for dogs is a continuous process of tracking, managing and improving your dog’s food, exercise and lifestyle habits. No two dogs are alike and the choices and routines of pet parents factor in both how it leads to an increase in an overweight dog’s health risks and also how it affects your dog’s weight management plans. 

Dog with rope toys

Here are a few common points you can keep in mind while drawing your dog’s weight management journey for the best results:

No Free Feeding

Effective weight management for dogs begins at home. Instead of keeping filled food bowls always accessible to your dogs, schedule meals and don't free feed. If you want to share your food, pick the right food to share - veggies, meats are good examples of what you can share. Avoid sharing highly processed food!

Count The Treats

Yes, it’s important to count the calories and hence, to count the treats. Treats are great for motivating your dog to exercise or to try out a new type of meal. However, an unmoderated amount of treats can keep piling additional calories in your dog’s body. Apart from introducing healthy dog food for weight loss; without scheduling a proper treat time for your dog, it is tough to draw out an effective weight management plan for your dog.

HUFT Tip: Introduce tasty HUFT Dog Treats to your dogs to make their weight management routine more fun!

Gradual Increase In Exercise

Apart from food & treat moderation, it is also important that your dog gets enough physical exercise for effective dog weight control. It not only helps in weight management but also contributes to their overall happiness. Every dog has different exercise needs and limits that should be discussed with your vet, however walking is a simple, easy and fun way to meet those needs. Carrying some dog treats and training them during the walk can also help in gradually increasing the intensity of the exercise, but remember to be gentle and not go overboard with the process. 

HUFT Tip: Make your dogs work for their treats by hiding it inside a snuffle mat to make sure they get their exercise indoors as well. 

Dog exercise

Underlying Health Issues 

If after keeping everything in check, you’re still not getting favourable results; maybe it’s time to rule out any underlying health issues that your dog might have. Conditions like Cushing Syndrome or Hypothyroidism can trigger weight gain in your dog’s body. Additionally, it will also do good to check your female dog for pregnancy in case she is unsterilized and has been in contact with other unsterilized dogs. Before starting any dog weight control plan, it’s advisable to visit your vet and see if adjustments for medicines or any medical condition will be required to be made. 

Dog obesity can be a major threat to our dogs’ health. However, awareness, planning along scheduled, properly timed, and portioned meals are the keys to ensuring that your dog’s weight and health remain positively balanced.

 

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