Just as in humans, obesity in dogs is a common health epidemic. The difference in dogs is that another being is responsible for playing a large role in increasing the girth of our dogs. So how do dogs get fat? Is it always our fault? What health problems do you worry about in obese dogs? What options are there to help your dog lose weight?
HOW DO DOGS GET FAT?
Well, it is no secret that if your dog is taking in more calories than he or she is burning then you should expect weight gain. But there are different reasons why your dog may be getting more calories than they need.
Overfeeding: This is probably the most common reason for obesity. There are many pet owners guilty of not measuring when feeding. A typical feeding usually involves just pouring a random amount of food in a bowl, so one never knows how food is actually fed. Also, pet owners rarely account for random treats given when considering their dog’s total daily caloric intake.
Stealing other dogs food: Controlling food intake in a house with multiple pets can be challenging . Sometimes it’s impossible to determine who is eating what and how much. If you have a dog who is adept at stealing their housemates food then there is a likelihood that the dog will gain weight.
Feeding table food: What some pet owners don’t realize when they are feeding their dog table food is that many times the caloric density is much greater by volume when compared to the same amount of dog food. So if they are getting fed table food daily, then it is likely they are far exceeding their daily caloric requirements. Not to even mention the other potential dietary problems that table food can cause as well.
There are a couple medical conditions that can contribute to a dog becoming a fat dog. One of the most common diseases is hypothyroidism. The thyroid maintains metabolism in dogs. With hypothyroidism, the thyroid hormone is reduced in the body resulting in weight gain due to a diminished metabolism. Another disease that may contribute to obesity is Cushing’s disease, or an overactive adrenal gland. This causes an increase in steroids in the body leading to an increased storage of fat in the body.
WHAT HEALTH PROBLEMS DO YOU WORRY ABOUT IN YOUR OBESE PET?
Orthopedic issues: Heavier dogs are more prone to a host of orthopedic issues. Some of these include hip dysplasia, cruciate ligament tears, and back problems.
Skin issues: Yeast infections can occur in the abundance of skin folds ( also known as skin fold dermatitis) especially around the face and neck.
Hooded vulva: Excessive skin can cover part or all of the vulva causing severe dermatitis from urine scalding. Also, this can make dogs more prone to urinary tract infections.
Respiratory issues: Obese dogs may be more prone to collapsing of the trachea and laryngeal paralysis, both conditions can lead to respiratory difficulty or distress.
Other health issues: Heavier dogs tend to be less tolerant to heat so they are more prone to overheat in hot weather. They also tire easily and experience exercise intolerance.
OPTIONS TO HELP ACHIEVE WEIGHT LOSS
Diet is the biggest cause for weight gain, so it is the most important for weight loss. The options for diet is to either feed less of the normal diet or to feed a restricted calorie diet. For successful weight loss, you need to have an honest assessment of what your dog eats daily. If your dog is gaining weight simple due to excessive treats, then you may only need to reduce amount of treats to achieve weight loss. If obesity is due to overfeeding, then the recommendation is to feed ~ 10-20% less of the current daily intake.
The goal of exercise is to increase muscle and metabolism. If your dog is extremely obese you will need to start slowly with an exercise protocol gradually increasing the intensity. This may not be possible with dogs who have health conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, or exercise intolerance. In these dogs low impact exercise is an alternative. Activities such as swimming, and under water treadmill may help provide non-painful exercise.
DIET PILLS FOR DOGS
Yes they make diet pills for dogs. The most common diet pill prescribed to dogs is called Slentrol. It works by suppressing the appetite and increasing satiety. As a result, intake of food can be controlled leading to weight loss. Slentrol is most effective when used in combination with an exercise and a diet modification protocol. This drug should only be considered if diet and exercise have failed. Slentrol should also be considered if the obesity is causing major health problems with your dog. Remember the drug is only meant to assist with weight loss therefore it shouldn’t be considered a long term medication.
Getting your fat dog to lose weight can be a challenging experience. It also requires a lot of patience. But to be successful consistency is important. Dietary and exercise are most essential for achieving weight management.