When you think of common health issues with dogs, there are probably more than a few that immediately come to mind. Fleas and ticks, worms, and dental issues might spring up first, and for good reason. They are prevalent, and can occur even with the highest levels of prevention.
While these health issues are indeed common, there is another health issue that is much more preventable and just as common, and that’s the issue of dog obesity.
Dog obesity is a gateway to a wide variety of other health issues, and is one dog problem that is almost entirely avoidable. Read on to find out what exactly defines dog obesity, and what you can do to prevent and treat it.
Dog obesity’s exact definition is a dog that suffers from excess body fat. When going off of body weight, dogs are overweight when they weigh anywhere from 10-20% above their ideal body weight. Obesity results when the dog weighs 20% or more above their ideal body weight.
Dogs that are overfed and lack exercise are at a high risk for obesity. While having what amounts to a fat dog may sound rather harmless and even humorous at first, the truth is that dog obesity is a serious health issue that can shorten a dog’s life, or at least leads to other harmful health problems.
The issue of dog obesity may seem like a small one, but it’s more widespread than you probably realize. In fact, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, over 44% of all dogs in the United States are believed to be overweight and/or obese. That’s a lot of dogs.
Feeding your dog more than it can burn off is perhaps the biggest cause of obesity. This can of course include standard dog food, but human food and leftover scraps can make the situation worse much quicker.
If you fail to give your dog adequate exercise, obesity is likely as well. This can happen even when your dog is fed a normal amount. If your dog sits around all day and is never taken outside to play, walk, and run, you are creating an environment where obesity can occur.
While poor diet and inadequate exercise are the primary factors in the occurrence of obesity, other health issues can sometimes be behind the causes themselves. For instance, if your dog has arthritis, it probably won’t be as active as it once was.
Diabetes is another example of a health issue that can lead to diabetes. Your dog’s insulin production level has a direct effect on it’s weight.
The effects of obesity in a dog are far reaching. Symptoms of the condition often include arthritis, heart and blood circulation issues, diabetes, hip dysplasia, and more.
All of these symptoms can lead to premature death, and an overall diminished quality of life in your dog. The more obese your dog gets, the less active it will be, which then snowballs into other issues. If your dog is already advanced in age, the obesity will speed up most of the issues that come from obesity.
Your dog will also be unhappy with its life. Being active is a huge part of a dog’s life, and when a dog is obese, exercise slowly ceases to even be an option. Your dog will end up just laying around all day and wishing that it was still able to run around without feeling like it’s going to have a heart attack.
There are a number of options available when addressing obesity in a dog, and much of it can be done yourself.
The first part of the process involves the actual diagnosis. Your veterinarian will measure your dog’s body weight and evaluate its body composition. Some tests may be run as well to determine if the obesity is being caused by something else, such as diabetes.
Once your veterinarian determines the obesity, and plan may be formulated to get your dog on track to a healthier weight, in a way that is gradual and safe.
Treatment plans involve reducing the dog’s caloric intake while slowly increasing exercise levels. Your vet will most likely recommend a certain type of dog food to purchase, as well as some healthy human foods you may be able to mix in every so often.
Diets that are high in protien and low in fat are generally suggested, as these proteins will help to increase your dog’s metabolism while also providing a more full feeling.
The goal in treatment is to balance out the calories with the exercise levels. If your dog has become generally inactive, you may begin to ease them back into exercising again by taking them on short, five minute walks.
As your dog begins to lose weight and show signs of better endurance, slowly increase the walking time to 10 minutes, and then 15 minutes. Eventually, you’ll be able to take it on longer walks every day, and resume other activities such as fetch and chasing balls in a park or backyard.
Once your dog’s ideal weight has been reached, your vet may tweak the diet plan slightly. After your dog is at a healthy weight again, close attention must be paid to ensure that it never gets to that point again.
Like nearly every other health issue, prevention is always the better course to choose. If your dog has otherwise good health, and is free from arthritis and diabetes, there is really no excuse for not keeping it in good health with a proper weight.
Always feed your dog the recommended amount for their weight, and keep human food to a minimum. For treats, consider using small amounts of peanut butter, and frozen low fat yogurt.
Take time each day to make sure that your dog is getting around 30 minutes of cardio exercise This can include walks, jogs, running in a dog park, and fetching balls and frisbees in open space. If the weather is bad, try to play with the dog in the house.
With the proper balance of diet and exercise, your dog will maintain a safe weight, and live a long, happy, and healthy life.