The Overweight Dog: Causes, Risks, & Ways to Combat It

Fatso, Fatty, Pumpkin Pie, and Roly Poly are names that we call friends (well, perhaps behind their back if you want to be rude since these are unkind names), family members, and associates who are slightly or terribly corpulent and out of shape. One hardly, however, calls his pet dog the same even though it may be the fattest canine in the neighborhood.

Yes, dogs too, can be overweight, fat, and obese like humans and like the national debt and face the same obesity risks as we do. The problem, however, is that we often fail to diagnose it in time and take necessary steps to tackle it. So here’s what needs to be done about it besides taking your dog walking more.

What is obesity in dogs?

In dogs, obesity happens due to genetic factors, lack of exercise, bad food management and excessive stress. Canine metabolism in fact, is such that too much energy stored in the dog’s body can get converted into fat. The rate if obesity gets affected by the following:

Excessive food intake: Leave bowlful of food for your dog perpetually is a sure shot way to invite obesity. So is treating him to high caloric foods whenever he wants it.

Lower activity level: Lack of exercise, particularly in bigger breeds enhances obesity. A dog that’s also a couch potato is most likely to turn overweight or even obese. Unless the dog is made to walk at least a mile a day, chances are that he’ll turn plump in due course of time.

Illness: Certain health conditions like Cushings disease, hypothyrodism, pituitary gland problems and pancreatic cancer exacerbate canine obesity.

Reproductive reasons: Feeding a spayed or neutered dog a regular meal everyday may cause obesity. They actually need about twenty percent less than normal dogs.

Breed: Some breeds because of their natural build tend to become overweight. These include Labradors, Pugs, Bull Dogs, Cocker Spaniels, Beagles and Basset Hounds.

Health Risks in Overweight or Obese Dogs

Research shows that obese dogs are more injury prone and at physical risk for surgical complications. Their major organs like the liver, lungs, kidneys, heart, and joints also get more stressed.

Moreover, just like humans, their blood pressure levels may rise abnormally and cause cardiac and cerebral strokes, respiratory disorders during summers and while they are being exercised and, more importantly, lead to diabetes, which is very commonly seen in dogs and is known to general shorten the dog’s life. 

How to Diagnose Obesity in Your Dog?

Rib-cage test: If on touching your dog’s chest, you can count its ribs, but also clearly discern the inter-rib spaces, then your dog isn’t overweight. However, if you’re having to prod around or apply extra pressure before you make contact with a rib, your dog is possibly overweight. This rib-cage test is critical because the ribs protect the lungs, which need space to expand. That space gets curtailed by the excessive fatty tissue.

Respiratory distress & decreased stamina: Dogs which consistently have trouble breathing, or tire quickly with minimum physical exertion, are likely to be obese. Even excessive panting is a typical sign, indicating that the dog is not getting an adequate and fresh, oxygenated blood supply to his vital organs and respiratory and cardiovascular disorders generally show up in overweight dogs. This may finally lead to congestive heart failure in the long run.

Digestive problems & constipation: When the dog has regular defecating problems and suffers repeated bouts of constipation, obesity could be behind it. Dogs who absorb too many calories and burn off too few, particularly through rich foods, are at higher risks for developing conditions that affect the body’s ability to cleanse and regulate itself. These conditions could be pancreatitis, diabetes and hepatic trouble.

The dog moves gingerly: It is generally seen that obese dogs have mobility problems and tend to move gingerly. They even sit or lie down with added effort. This may be due to obesity-induced bone & joint problems like hip dysplasia or arthritis. Certain breeds in fact, are more prone to hip dysplasia and acute arthritis brought on by ageing. An overweight dog’s back, legs and joints are constantly under unrelenting strain and their being overweight only speeds the musculoskeletal deterioration rate.

Blocky body shape: The body shape of a healthy dog has a distinct upward slope from the base of the ribcage to the hips and this is clearly noticeable. An overweight or obese dog, on the other hand, appears blocky and there’s no difference in girth from its ribs to its hips.

Fighting Obesity & Getting Your Dog Back Into Shape

Take immediate action: Once you’re sure that your dog is overweight, get in touch with your vet immediately. Ask him to investigate why the dog is obese and to diagnose an underlying medical condition that could be responsible. Should nothing untoward be found medically, start your dog on a regular exercise regimen.

Take him for a walk around the neighborhood or in the local park and gradually increase the time. Don’t exert too much pressure at the beginning because he could tire easily and lose interest. Rainy, cold, or snowy days should not be excuses for skipping exercises. It has to be done!

Portion control: Keep all those doggy treats in a small snack bag, allocating daily treats. When the bag empties, the daily quota is over and no excesses are to be given. Make the snacking experience a rewarding one for your dog. You could stuff a toy with low-fat snacks or green bean pieces or even salmon treats and watch him have fun while he chews. Eliminate sugars and other carbohydrates like refined flour and consult your vet for amounts to be fed, as also feeding guidelines.

Gradually switch foods: From normal meals, you could also gradually switch to dehydrated, low-calorie foods which aid in alleviating constipation. You get flavor options, the food is easy to store and prepare.

Avoid high sugar, fat, or sodium-rich foods: In order to avoid pancreatitis, a life-threatening disease in obese dogs, it’s best to keep them away from fried or greasy foods like stuffing, rolls, pastries, cheese, and desserts. Moreover, never give the dog raisins, grapes, chocolates, or alcoholic beverages. Also, absolutely no feeding from the table when the family sits down to eat. You do not want to do that, that could push them to form a bad habit.

In regards to walking your dog more, you have to do it. We do not have robots to do that for us like in the movie iRobot. Not yet at least! Walking is vital for humans too!