The Dangers of an Overweight Dog
At least one in five dogs are classified as obese – which is a scary thought when you consider the number of chronic and life-threatening conditions that overweight dogs are susceptible to.
Dogs are classified as obese if they reach between 15% and 20% over their ideal weight, or if you can no longer feel their ribs. While there are factors that increase the likelihood of dogs becoming obese, such as their breed, genetic makeup, sex, and age; how we decide to feed them has the greatest influence on their weight.
So, while it may be tempting to give in to their puppy-eyes whenever the treats are near, it’s important to think of the serious consequences of excessive weight gain and to remember that we want them to have a long, happy, and healthy life with us.
Problems Associated with Overweight Dogs
Carrying around extra weight puts extreme pressure on a dog’s joints which causes the cartilage to deteriorate, eventually leading to arthritis.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for arthritis and it is only manageable by treating the pain with medication. However, losing as little as 6-8% of their total body weight has been shown to drastically improve pain caused by arthritis.
Too much weight is a well-known risk factor for tearing the anterior cruciate ligament, an important ligament in the knee which requires surgery and rehabilitation to repair. Not only is this unpleasant for your four-legged friend, but it’s a rather expensive ordeal.
Heart and breathing conditions
Obesity in dogs has been associated with mild heart changes, reduced respiratory function and tracheal collapse. While there’s no reason to believe obesity causes this, it definitely complicates matters and makes them harder to treat. In patients with heatstroke, obesity was also found to reduce the chances of recovery.
A study of 700 dogs showed that obese dogs of all breeds were at increased risk of intervertebral disc disease (slipped disc), but in high risk breeds like the Miniature Dachshund, even being slightly overweight increased their chances of injury. For dogs that must undergo disc surgery, it has been proven that they recover faster if they’re at their ideal weight.
Not only do overweight dogs find it harder to groom themselves properly, but they also have extra skin folds which can cause irritation and bacterial infection leading to body odour and open wounds from excessive scratching. While this is treatable with antibiotics and topical creams, it causes completely unnecessary discomfort for your dog.
Quality of life
Obesity has been shown to reduce your dog’s life span by two years and severely worsen their quality of life. Carrying extra weight around takes its toll; overweight dogs are slow to get down and back up again, they get tired quickly, suffer from depression and are much less likely to play.
Just like with humans, there are unfortunately no miracles when it comes to losing weight.
Simply put – they need to eat less and exercise more, but it’s not considered ideal to cut down on the amount of food unless your veterinarian suggests it. So, a check-up is strongly recommended to ensure any changes to their diet.
Starving your dog is just as bad, if not worse than overfeeding, so if you are concerned about your dogs’ weight, book an appointment with your vet to discuss the various diet options that would suit their lifestyle and breed.
The other requirement for losing weight is more exercise. Fortunately, this is the good part as it involves more time having fun with your dog.
There are countless activities you can do together to help them lose weight; from walks in the park to hiking and swimming – just be sure to take their fitness level into account before you start!
Obese dogs are not beyond saving and the situation can quite easily be fixed. Your family vet can provide you with the tools and the knowledge to help your dog live a long and happy life.