Just like humans, dogs can carry excess weight due to a number of reasons. And when you do not do anything to bring your pet back to his recommended weight, the consequences can be dire.
But how, exactly, do pooches end up becoming obese?
Top causes of obesity in dogs
Dogs can become obese due to a number of reasons. Here’s a brief look at the leading causes.
Environmental factors encompass a few causes of obesity in dogs.
For starters, you might be simply overfeeding your dogs. Like humans, your dog’s food consumption should be about equal or less than his caloric expenditure. Some pet owners get into the habit of feeding their furry pals with table scraps and plenty of treats, unable to resist their pets’ begging. In other instances, pet owners feed their dogs with high-fat meals or feed their pets more often than is necessary.
Another environmental factor that leads to obesity is lack of exercise. Dogs need regular exercise to stimulate their brains and burn off excess calories. Over time, the lack of exercise can lead to serious weight gain.
Finally, some owners simply do not recognize weight gain and obesity in their pets, thinking that their canines are at a healthy weight.
Some breeds of dogs, notably beagles, labradors, and dachshunds, are predisposed to obesity, especially if their owners do not monitor their weight.
Dogs older than five years also have a tendency to become obese. As dogs grow older, their activity levels drop while their metabolism slows down.
Medications and surgery
After your dog has been neutered or spayed, there is a likelihood that he or she will gain weight. These procedures alter the production of hormones in dogs, making them hungrier than usual.
Medications like phenobarbital and glucocorticoids also cause weight gain and overeating.
Insulinoma, hypothyroidism, and hyperadrenocorticism are diseases that have been known to cause weight gain in canines.
Adverse effects of obesity
Your dog may seem cute and chunky, but obesity can lead to serious adverse consequences that can shorten his lifespan and negatively affect his quality of life.
Here are some of the side effects of obesity that your beloved pet can fall prey to if you do not help him get back to a healthy weight.
The excess weight your pet carries can take a toll on his joints. It starts with the degeneration of the cartilages in the joints, and when left unchecked, obesity can lead to arthritis.
Torn anterior cruciate ligament
Also known as ACL, anterior cruciate ligament is a ligament found in dogs’ knees. When your dog is overweight, there is a high risk that his ACL can get torn. This condition requires surgery.
Cardio and pulmonary issues
Obesity in dogs can lead to heart and breathing problems like heart disease, elevated blood pressure, laryngeal paralysis, collapsing trachea, and other respiratory problems. Some of these can be fatal.
Obese dogs also have a higher risk of contracting diseases like breast and bladder cancer.
Excess weight can lead to the creation of skin folds. These skin folds can harbour bacteria. The presence of bacteria on the skin can cause irritation, foul odor, and redness.
Plus, you can notice that your dog’s coat looks poor no matter how you groom him.
How do you know if your dog is obese?
In order to determine if your pooch is really obese, there are two factors that your veterinarian will need to consider: his weight and his body condition score or BCS.
BCS can be measured in a few different ways. However, the charts used by veterinarians typically follow a few fundamental principles.
Visually, if your dog is overweight, you will not see the tapering from his upper body to his waist when viewing him from above. You might also not be able to feel his ribs when you gently pet him.
In an obese dog, his waistline can either be the same or bigger than his upper body, while his ribs can only be felt when you apply pressure around that area.
Healthy dogs have a noticeable taper from their upper bodies down to their waists when viewed from above. Plus, their ribs can be easily felt, even with gentle petting.
Your veterinarian can confirm if your dog is normal, overweight, or obese.
Getting your dog right back on track
If your vet confirms your suspicions about your pet’s weight, here are a few tips that will help bring him back to his ideal weight.
Weigh your dog regularly
For a small to medium-sized dog, you can get his weight by using the weighing scale you have at home. All you have to do is to measure your weight, and then measure your weight when you are carrying your pet. From there, subtract your weight from the last measurement.
For larger dogs, it is highly recommended that you bring them to the vet for weighing.
Compute your pet’s calorie intake
Start by calculating your dog’s normal calorie intake, including the treats you regularly give him. This will serve as the baseline by which you measure his meal plan.
From there, you can cut his calorie intake slowly until his weight goes down to the ideal level.
Pay attention to what he eats
For portion control, consider investing in a measuring cup.
Feed him regularly
Ideally, dogs should be fed twice a day.
Exercise your dog
Like humans, dogs need to increase their activity to lose weight effectively. Start exercising him slowly and gradually increase intensity and time once he gets acclimated to his exercise regimen.
Check his weight regularly
Start checking his weight two weeks after starting his diet and exercise regimen. Ideally, he should lose about 0.5 to two percent of his body weight per week. He may lose more, but do note that his initial weight loss can be attributed to water weight loss.
Monitor his progress regularly
Even after your pet has reached his ideal weight, you should still check his weight from time to time to prevent him from gaining excess weight back.
Prevention is always better than cure
If you want your dog to live longer and better, monitor his food intake and activity level. While it is possible to restore your pet’s weight to a normal level if he becomes overweight or obese, it is infinitely better to keep him at a healthy weight always.