How To Prevent Obesity In Dogs
Obesity in dogs is becoming more common nowadays, especially since pandemic lock-ins caused dogs to miss a lot of opportunities to be active. Aside from that, modern times are generally less hectic, and dogs do not have to work as much as their ancestors did. This is worrying because obesity is dangerous.
Signs Of Obesity In Dogs
Dogs considered obese are those that are 20% heavier than ideal. They typically have the following characteristics:
- Large belly
- Flabby look
- Weakness and poorly defined muscles
- Decreased activity
- Frequent panting
- Difficulty breathing
- Can’t move or exercise much
- Change positions with great difficulty
Note that dogs showing these obesity signs may not be officially obese, and they may be experiencing other issues. Other than that, they may be simply overweight or be 10% heavier than what is good for their body size. To know for sure, it’s best to consult a vet.
What Causes Obesity In Dogs?
Contrary to common belief, canine obesity is not only caused by overeating. Many things, some of which you may not expect, can make a dog obese.
Dogs that eat food in greater amounts and frequencies than what’s appropriate will gain weight. It could also be possible that they eat more than what they can properly digest, so the undigested food will not be converted to energy but instead stored in the body as fat.
Inactivity Or Lack Of Exercise
Dogs that are not given enough chances to expend their energy through activities and exercises may experience weight gain.
Certain medical conditions can cause dogs to gain weight. These can include the following:
- Hypothyroidism: When the thyroid gland doesn’t produce normal levels of thyroid hormone, the metabolism may slow down.
- Cushing’s disease: When the dog’s body releases excessive amounts of cortisol hormone, the dog may experience muscle wasting and unhealthy weight gain.
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS): A hormonal imbalance causing weight gain and difficulty losing weight.
- Insulin Resistance: The dog’s body may develop a condition called insulin resistance, where the body does not respond well to insulin, which may cause diabetes and weight gain.
- Cancer: Cancer may alter a dog’s metabolism.
You must keep in mind that numerous factors contribute to obesity. The only way to effectively treat a condition is to identify its underlying cause.
Is your dog taking medication? Corticosteroids, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, hormonal medication, and insulin can all cause obesity as a side effect.
Some dog breeds are more prone to being overweight or obese than others. Some of these are Basset Hounds, Beagles, Cairn Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, Dachshunds, Labrador Retrievers, Scottish Terriers, and Shetland Sheepdogs.
You must prevent your dog from becoming overweight if the breed is prone to obesity. Try to avoid overfeeding it and give it more frequent exercise.
Aging dogs are typically less active than younger ones because of their decreased strength, so they tend to gain weight. Exercise may also become tricky when they have aching joints or other illnesses.
Neutering Or Spaying
Dogs that have been neutered or spayed tend to become fat, possibly because of hormonal loss and metabolism changes, but thankfully, this may only last for two years after the surgery.
What Foods Cause Obesity In Dogs?
Some foods that can cause obesity in dogs are:
- Fatty or sugary foods
- High-calorie foods
- Highly processed food
- Table scraps
It is better to feed hungry dogs low-calorie snacks like beans or peas. You may wonder if you can feed your dog limes. Read more: Are Limes Safe For Dogs?
Dog Obesity Treatment
The methods for treating and preventing obesity in dogs are similar.
If you want to know how to prevent obesity in dogs, follow the commonly prescribed treatments for dog obesity:
- Feed your dog less: Providing the dog with a diet that has fewer calories and fats than what it normally consumes may help it to shed some pounds. Consider feeding the dog less frequently as well.
- Design a weight-loss meal plan: Collaborate with a dog nutritionist to find a balanced diet for your dog that is suitable for its size, age, preferences, and activities.
- Exercise: Giving your dog activities and exercises can help them burn their fat and lower their weight. You don’t have to try anything drastically new; simply making some adjustments may be enough. If your dog is fond of walks, consider walking 10 minutes longer than usual. If you play fetch occasionally, do it daily.
- Monitor food intake: If you didn’t pay close attention to what your dog was eating before, keep track now. Ask everyone in the household to avoid giving the dog table scraps. Review the label of all dog food and treats and choose low-calorie options.
- Consult a vet: Your pet doctor may identify and treat underlying health conditions that may be responsible for your dog’s excessive weight.
- Provide your dog medications: Some dogs with obesity cases may benefit from medications that help a dog reduce weight. Some of these are appetite suppressants, diuretics (to lose excess water), and thyroid hormone replacements (for obesity caused by thyroid disorders). Ask your vet if there are medications they can prescribe for your dog.
Note that weight loss is ideally gradual to avoid dangerous side effects. Always consult the vet before trying out a treatment, regardless of how popular it may be.
Obesity In Dogs: Health Risks
Obesity may have a dire impact on a dog’s life. Dogs that are overweight, especially those that are obese, are at a greater risk of acquiring several health challenges, such as the following:
Overweight Dogs' Life Expectancy: Dogs that are obese may have their lifespans cut by 2.5 years, which is equivalent to 10 to 15 human years.
Joint problems: Excess weight strains the joints and can cause arthritis. This can make it hard for your dog to remain mobile or to participate in activities that it used to enjoy.
Obese dog breathing problems: An obese dog may find it hard to breathe well because of increased chest pressure, fat deposits that obstruct their airway, and a compromised cardiovascular system.
Cardiovascular issues: The factors accompanying obesity increase the likelihood of cardiovascular disorders such as hypertension and heart disease.
Diabetes: Obesity leads to insulin resistance in the dog’s cells; it also causes inflammation in the pancreas, which decreases its ability to produce insulin.
Obesity affects the dog’s hormones and immune system to the point that it may develop certain cancers.
Taking Care Of Obese Dogs
Caring for obese dogs may be challenging, especially because results may not be visible immediately. However, the trick is to focus on doing what is required each day and trusting the process. Consider measuring your dog's weight once a month, and remember that gradual weight loss is better.