With 25 to 40 percent dogs considered to be obese, obesity is one of the most common nutrition-related health issues in dogs. Obesity in dogs is a vicious circle, that is, a dog that has gained weight has reduced physical activity, thereby making it all the more difficult for the canine to lose weight. Moreover, most dog owners do not even realize that their pets are overweight, until they are taken to the veterinarian for other reasons. Obese dogs are likely to experience difficulty in breathing or walking and are unable to tolerate excess heat or exercise. They are at a higher risk of developing skeletal stress, cardiopulmonary disease, interference with normal reproductive functions and puppy delivery, complications to diabetes, difficulty in regulating body temperature and potential inflammation of the pancreas. Even surgeries take a longer time, since the veterinarian has to work his way through layers of fat. Read on to know the various causes of obesity in dogs and ways to treat it.
Causes Of Obesity In Dogs
While some dogs are choosy and eat only when they are hungry, some eat whatever is available to them and look out for more, irrespective of the hunger pangs. Feeding your dog all the time is a sure-shot way of making it overweight. Also, the type of food that you are giving your dog directly affects the weight of a dog. Table scraps, treats and high-energy dog foods can easily contribute to obesity.
The level of activity provided to dog largely determines its caloric needs, thereby affecting its chances of becoming overweight. An active dog burns more calories and has a healthy mental state, making it less likely to eat more.
Neutering and Spraying
Both these methods reduce the metabolic rate of dogs, hence making the canines require fewer calories than intact dogs. Apart from metabolism changes, androgens and estrogens (male and female sex hormones, respectively) affect roaming behavior and general physical activity. Due to less energy needs, neutered and sprayed dogs tend to gain weight with whatever they are fed.
Some breeds have more chances of becoming overweight or obese than other breeds. Labrador Retrievers, Dachshunds, Beagles, Cairn Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, Collies, Shetland Sheepdogs (Shelties) and Basset Hounds are some breeds that are more prone to gain weight.
Dogs between 2 and 12 years of age, especially around the 6th year, are more likely to become overweight. While growing into adults, their tendency to become overweight reduces significantly. Young dogs, too, are less likely to gain weight since they are highly energetic and more active. A dog who has become overweight in less than two years will continue to remain overweight throughout its life.
Some medications highly affect the metabolism and appetite of dogs. Some of them include the glucocorticoids such as prednisone and dexamethasone, the barbiturates such as phenobarbital that is used to control epilepsy, and a class of drugs called benzodiazepines which includes valium.
Certain conditions, such as hypothyroidism, Cushing's disease, pancreatic cancer and pituitary problems, further enhance obesity in dogs.
Treatment Of Obesity In Dogs
- Take your dog to a veterinarian for a thorough check-up. The vet would not only advise you the diet which you should adhere to for your pet, but also inform you of the exercise plan required to lose weight.
- Reduce the intake of fat and carbohydrate rich foods. Since obese dogs are likely to eat more, give them more water and fiber to satiate their hunger. Also, keep a food diary to record everything that your pet eats.
- Increase the frequency of your dog’s walks and avoid treating it with tidbits. Start off with short walks and gradually increase the duration.
- Several natural supplements are also available for treating obesity in dogs. Dog supplements that contain dandelion and thistle are the best. These will clear the dog’s system and detoxify the entire body from chemicals and accumulated fats.
- Fucus Vesiculosis is another very useful herb for treating obese dogs. It is rich in vitamins A, B, C and D, and minerals like zinc, potassium, magnesium and iron. These nutrients help in restoring a healthy metabolism in dogs that can otherwise make your dog sluggish and unresponsive to its surroundings.