Beyond Belly: What You Need to Know About Dog Obesity
Updated: Jul 29, 2022
You might think that a fat puppy is cute, but many veterinarians say that there is nothing adorable about a chunky pup. Unfortunately, people are not the only ones gaining weight due to stay-at-home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic — our dogs are getting fat, too!
Whether we admit it or not, our perception of a "cute" dog has changed. Fur parents are spoiling their pooches with delicious food and treats so much that the number of obese and overweight dogs has increased over the years and people are forgetting what normal looks like.
The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, along with Hill's Pet Nutrition, released the Canadian Pet Wellness Report that one of the most common contributing factors of dog obesity is lack of exercise. Veterinarians also estimate that 50% to 60% of Canadian dogs are obese because they do not have enough playtime. The number may be expected to increase due to lockdown.
Causes of Dog Obesity
There are a variety of reasons that contribute to your dog’s weight problem, with overeating and lack of exercise being the top two causes. However, there are lesser-known factors that can cause your dogs to become excessively overweight.
Overeating - Some fur parents tend to show their love by overfeeding their pooch. However, spoiling your pets with overly generous portions and between-meal snacks is not healthy. In general, dogs should eat twice a day, about 12 hours apart. However, if you have larger breeds or dogs with a medical condition, it is best to talk to your vet to determine your dog's dietary needs.
Lack of Exercise - Some dogs share the same problem with their humans. Allowing your pooch to run and play in your yard does not guarantee they get the exercise they need. If your dogs do not have enough exercise, they will slowly and steadily gain extra pounds, which can result in obesity.
Certain Breeds - Labradors, shelties, and beagles are some of the breeds that have a higher risk for obesity than other dog breeds due to their inherited "fat gene."
Hormonal Disorder - Hypothyroidism can make your dog more prone to obesity. This health condition triggers the adrenal glands to produce too much cortisol, putting them at risk of Cushing's disease. Although Cushing's disease does not actually cause weight gain, it causes fat redistribution to the abdomen, making them look pot-bellied.
Age - Many dogs start to gain more weight when they reach middle age. So when your dogs reach 5 or 6 years and they are already overweight, make sure they get proper exercise and diet.
Spaying or Neutering - Spayed or neutered dogs have a slow metabolism. While it is not directly associated with weight gain, overfeeding, lack of exercise and age can make them fat.
How to Tell if Your Dog Exceeds Their Healthy Body Weight
When your furry friend puts on weight, it often goes unnoticed. While some dog food packages come with a dog obesity chart, there are other things you can do to tell if your dog has a weight problem.
Check the Dog’s Body Shape - Just looking at your dog’s body shape can help you determine if they are fat. If your pooch has a rotund and oval-shaped body, then your pet may be obese. Dogs with a defined waist with a straight build down the sides indicate that they have a healthy body weight.
Feel Their Ribs - A rib test (feeling the prominence of your dog’s ribs) is one of the simplest ways to determine if your dog has exceeded the healthy body weight. Simply run your hands around your pet’s abdomen and flanks. If you can feel their ribs without having to press hard, your dog is fit. If you cannot feel their ribs, it means that fats have accumulated in their body over the years and you may need to change your pet’s diet and start engaging in exercises for overweight pooches. A vet can provide you with the proper obese dog weight loss exercise plan.
Do the Abdominal Test - Have your dog stay in a standing position. The body shape of a healthy dog should be wider at the chest and thinner at the abdomen. Also, its tummy area should be tucked up toward the rear. If the body shape of your pooch looks more like a tube and has a prominent abdomen, it is a sign that your dog is overweight or obese.
Disinterest in Physical Activities - Healthy dogs are naturally energetic. They love to play and show enthusiasm in any physical activity. However, when your furry friend starts to become a couch potato and starts to show disinterest in their favourite physical activities, it could be due to the extra pounds that drain their energy quickly. Overweight dogs become easily exhausted after a few minutes of walking, running, or playing.
Weigh Your Dog - The weight range of every dog breed and size is unique. Some breeds can be considered obese just by gaining a few pounds. A dog weight chart will help you understand the healthy weight range of the most common breeds.
Health Risks Caused by Dog Obesity
Although pet owners know that obesity can harm their dog's health, many fail to recognize the fine line between healthy and unhealthy dog weight or the serious impact of excess weight in dogs. Obesity is a dangerous health issue that increases your pet's risk of developing a more serious, life-threatening disease, which can be detrimental to their quality of life.
Joint and Ligament Problems - Obese dogs are more prone to developing serious bone problems. Carrying extra pounds of weight can place extra pressure on their joints, resulting in painful arthritis. Extra tension on the joints can also damage your dog's ligaments. The anterior cruciate ligaments found in the knees are susceptible to strains and tears, making them unstable. This causes the dog to reluctantly use them. Surgery may be necessary to repair the torn ligament.
Diabetes Mellitus - Diabetes mellitus is a common health problem associated with obesity in dogs. Extra weight can trigger higher levels of insulin in response to the increase in the level of blood glucose in overweight dogs. When the insulin requirement is greater than your body’s ability to produce insulin, it results in diabetes mellitus, a health condition that causes the pancreatic cells to burn out.
Increased Blood Pressure and Heart Disease - Like humans, obesity can also cause hypertension (increased blood pressure) and heart problems in dogs. Putting on more weight make the heart to work harder to deliver blood to excess tissues, resulting in congestive heart failure.
Back Problems - A study that involved 700 dogs reported obese dogs, no matter what their breed, have an increased risk of a slipped disc. However, the risk of back problems can quickly increase in certain dog breeds, like the Miniature Dachshund, just by gaining a few pounds.
Shorter Lifespan - The Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition conducted a study showing that overweight and obese dogs have a shorter life expectancy. The study revealed that dogs with unhealthy weight are expected to live 10 months shorter than dogs within the ideal weight.
How to Help Your Dog Lose Weight
Fur parents play a crucial role in the health and fitness of their pet dogs. In most cases, showing our love by spoiling them with too much food can be detrimental to their health. Luckily, we can set things straight and keep them on the right track so they can live healthy and happy.
Proper Diet - Excessive amounts of treats and food during mealtime can make your dog gain more weight quickly, especially if they are constantly inactive. To help your dog lose weight, feed them their usual food in the morning but replace their second meal with green beans and some kibble. In the evening, give them a doggie multi-vitamin.
Before you change your dog's diet, however, make sure to consult your vet for approval.
Count the Treats - Treat counts when it comes to helping your dog lose weight so make sure to count them. Some treats are high in calories and can contribute to weight gain. Reduce the number of treats or replace them with biscuits or cheese. Treats, such as freshly chopped carrot sticks, celery, broccoli, sweet potatoes, and functional treats do not only make your dogs happy but also keep their teeth clean.
Exercise - A proper and healthy diet is key to your dog's weight loss, but it should come with the right exercise plan. Walking does not only help your pet burn extra fats but also helps stimulate them mentally and allow them to socialize with other dogs.
Your vet can help you create a weight loss plan that will determine the required amount of walking your dog needs based on their breed and general health.
While a daily 20-minute walk is good for your dog's health, some breeds may require longer exercise to keep their body in good shape. Gradually introduce your dogs to new activities to avoid exhaustion and joint injury.
Weight loss can be a long and daunting game. As much as you want to be there every step of the way, sometimes, your work or household chores can take much of your time.
Count on Hot Diggity Dogs Toronto to take your dog on an on- or off-leash walking adventure. Our small crew of dog walkers and sitters have years of experience with dogs of different sizes, breeds, and age to make every walks the best that they can be. Give us a call at (416) 834-6997 to learn more about our dog walking and daycare services in Etobicoke, or use our contact form to send us your message. We will arrange a meeting between one of our Pack Leaders and your dog to help them get to know each other.