Dealing with Obesity in Dogs

Dog Obesity 5 Ways To Combat It

Pet obesity is on the rise, and this can have a negative impact on your dog’s health and quality of life. Some medical conditions can contribute to weight gain but for many dogs, it is actually diet and lifestyle that is the main culprit.

In this guide, we look at obesity and weight management for dogs.

Is Your Dog Overweight?

Unless your dog is hugely obese, you may not be sure whether he or she is a healthy weight. Research from the Pet Food Manufacturers Association (PFMA) suggests that you wouldn’t be the only pet owner in this position – a huge 92% were unaware that their pet was actually an unhealthy weight. These simple tests can give a good indication:

Appearance of the ribs: How prominent are your dog’s ribs? If he or she is a healthy weight, you won’t necessarily be able to see their ribs but you should be able to feel them by pressing gently along their sides. If you can’t locate them easily, they may be hidden beneath fat.

Waist definition: Looking at your dog from above, is there an obvious “waist” that narrows between the chest and hips? This will not be present in a dog that is overweight and the “waist” will usually be in similar proportion to the abdomen.

Tucked-in abdomen: Looking at your dog from the side, does the abdomen look “tucked in” or does it have a more saggy look? An overweight dog will veer towards the latter description.

If you’re worried that your dog may be overweight, get in touch with your vet for an official weigh-in and examination.

Why Is My Dog Overweight?

Medical conditions can play a part in obesity in dogs. In dogs, hypothyroidism is one of the most common culprits. This is due to problems with the thyroid gland, which controls metabolism. Dogs with thyroid levels that are below the “normal” level will have a slower metabolism and will often gain weight more easily.

Blood tests can diagnose this condition and treatment involves supplementing low thyroid levels with a synthetic thyroid hormone. Soloxine and Thyforon (Forthyron) are two common products that are used to treat hypothyroidism in dogs, both of which are available from Animed Direct with a vet’s prescription. Speak to your vet to get things moving forwards if you are concerned that your dog may have hypothyroidism.

Arthritis is another condition that can affect your dog’s weight, albeit on a less direct basis. It can restrict the amount of exercise that your dog can do, which can contribute to weight gain. A vicious cycle can then occur, in which additional weight can make the condition worse and further reduce the ability to exercise. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can be useful for reducing pain/inflammation and improving mobility.

If medical issues are not to blame, weight gain will usually be due to your dog consuming more calories than he or she is burning up in everyday activity. It is quite common for dog owners to implement a diet that is inappropriate for their lifestyle and level of exercise. Large portions, too many treats and “human” food can also contribute to excess weight.

An imbalance can also occur if not enough calories are used up during your dog’s everyday activities, notably if he or she is not getting adequate exercise. This may be because walks are too short or not frequent enough.

What Are the Health Implications for My Dog?

Being overweight can have negative effects on your dog’s health. There is a bigger chance that your dog will go on to develop diabetes, and the added body weight can put greater strain on the heart, lungs and joints. There is also an increased risk associated with general anaesthesia, which can be an issue if surgery is needed. As well as the physical implications many overweight pets also experience a decline in their quality of life.

Keeping Your Dog’s Weight Under Control

Exercise is a key part of keeping your dog’s weight under control. Increasing your dog’s physical activity will mean that he or she is burning more energy each day. This can be achieved via walks and playtime. Longer walks can work well, but you can also take your dog for shorter but more regular walks that will be effective without being overtiring. Dog toys can be a great way to enjoy interactive playtime with your dog to encourage physical activity and develop a bond.

Diet is also crucial for weight management. Start off by reducing your dog’s consumption of treats and human food. Follow this up by gradually reducing the amount of “regular” food to lower the number of calories being consumed so that less will be stored as fat. Take care to ensure that your dog is still receiving sufficient nutrients via his or her diet though.

A special diet that is low in calories and fat can also encourage weight loss. These are intended to provide the same bulk that you would expect in “normal” sized meals but with less fat and calories. These diets still provide a well-balanced diet but are effective for weight control. Consult with your vet before embarking on one of these diets to ensure that it is definitely the right option.

There are several veterinary diets available, including:

Hills prescription diet r/d is a weight loss diet with proven results and is available for dogs as wet or dry options. It is a low calorie diet that encourages fat burning and provides high fibre levels to promote “fullness” despite a reduced calorie intake. Once your dog reaches his or her target weight, this product offers a complete diet that prevents weight gain and promotes weight control.

Royal Canin Obesity Management is formulated to reduce excess body weight to reach an appropriate target weight. It is available in both wet and dry formats. For a dry diet, Royal Canin Weight Control provides a moderate calorie intake to prevent weight gain and high protein levels to promote lean muscle mass.

Purina Veterinary Diets OM (Overweight Management) is a complete, balanced diet to reduce body weight in overweight pets. It is formulated as a low calorie, low fat and high fibre diet with a high protein to calorie ratio.

[Photo credit: Jason Pier in DC]