Obesity by definition is the accumulation of body fat which is a serious health risk. Obesity is not a cosmetic concern, contrary to the primary concern of a lot of people. It is a serious medical condition and a large population of pets is falling prey to it. Obesity can significantly affect the life span, even if your pet is just slightly overweight. According to a survey conducted by the Association for pet obesity prevention, over 50% of dogs in the US are obese or overweight. Dogs aged between 5 and 11 years are found weighing higher than normal. Obesity can be associated with increased veterinary costs, decreased quality of life, and increased risk of cancer. Simple lifestyle changes go a long way in preventing and recovering from Obesity.
Signs to look out for:
- Increased weight
- No visible waistline
- No noticeable ribcage
- Surplus body fat
- Lack of flexibility
- Difficulty in breathing
What causes obesity?
Many different factors contribute to obesity, which can lead to a number of fatal diseases. It all comes down to the basic mechanism of calorie intake and calories used. If the calorie intake a dog is higher than the work done by its body, the remaining calories are stored as fat and result in weight gain.
Age and breed can be responsible for obesity too. Some breeds like Labradors, dachshunds, beagles, are predisposed to obesity due to their genetic factor. Also, as the dogs grow old their mobility decreases and they burn fewer calories. Dogs above 5 years of age are at risk of obesity.
Lifestyle is another major factor behind the disease. Poor lifestyle choices can put your furry friend at a major health risk. Overfeeding is very common among pets. Feeding more than the pet can utilize immediately results in a metabolic imbalance. Dietary choices like table scraps, high-fat foods, number of meals, number of treats and frequent variations in the diet are also contributing factors.
Lack of physical activity is an obvious reason. Pets have a pathological need for a walk and outdoor activities for their bodies to stay healthy. Slacking off in this area can contribute to weight gain.
Denial can also be considered as a factor here. Owners prefer to stay in denial about their pet’s health instead of noticing and accepting the signs of obesity.
Diseases like Hypothyroidism, Insulinoma, Hyperadrenocorticism, can also be reasons behind weight gain. Additionally, Neutering also decreases the production of sex hormones and in turn the energy expenditure in dogs.
Diagnosis of Obesity in Dogs
Obesity is diagnosed by assessing body fat and obtaining a body condition score (BCS). You can perform a quick obesity diagnosis on your dog at home too. All BCS charts use the following general body condition measuring system.
- Underweight: Ribs, spine, and/or pelvic bones are can be seen from a distance
- Ideal Weight: Ribs can be felt upon gentle petting. The waistline thinner than the upper body when viewed from the top.
- Overweight: Ribs cannot be felt on gentle petting. The size of the upper body and size of the waist look equal when viewed from above.
- Obese: Ribs felt only when applied pressure. Waistline either of the same size or wider than the upper body.
If your pet falls under the overweight or obese category in your at-home diagnosis, you should arrange a visit with your veterinarian. Your vet will obtain a body condition score and may conduct several other tests to rule out the presence of any other underlying condition. After only a thorough diagnosis of body fat, BCS, and the general factors associated with the breed of your dog will your vet confirm the disease and begin the weight management protocol.
Treatment for Obesity
Exercise and dietary changes can be used to treat your dog for obesity. Obesity treatment in dogs does not focus only on weight loss but also on the maintenance of a healthy weight for life. Alike humans, calorie deficit (meaning increase in calorie burnt and decrease in calorie intake) is a healthy way to induce weight loss. Your vet will recommend portion control, feeding times, frequency in rewarding treats, proper foods, and exercise options.
High-protein, low-carb, and low-fat foods are considered optimal for weight loss as protein and fiber stimulate metabolism. Including green beans and other vegetables is a good option along with eliminating the treats. Unlike in the case of humans, homemade diets are not recommended for weight loss in dogs as they often lack in daily vitamin and mineral requirements. Dietary changes must be made slowly and carefully to avoid upsetting the digestive system.
Exercise is very crucial for weight loss and cannot be avoided in this process. A variety of options for physical activity include thirty minutes of walk, outdoor games, treadmill training, and swimming (dog spas have pools and treadmills for exercise). Taking your pet for an afternoon at a dog daycare two to three times a week can be good for its health.
Recovery and Maintenance
Once your pet reaches the ideal body weight and body fat, it is crucial to maintain that weight. As a second phase of the weight management regime, your pet will provide you appropriate food plans and portions for weight maintenance. Portion control is critical at this stage to prevent relapsing. Crash diets can even though lead to a quicker weight loss but there are significant chances of regaining weight. The benefits of healthy body weight and condition make the effort well worth it.
Once your dog begins a weight management protocol, bodyweight should be monitored monthly to make sure that the protocol is working. Necessary modifications to the exercise and diet protocol may be needed as weight changes occur. The role of the family is also important when following a diet plan for your dog. The dietary changes should be explained to family and friends clearly to keep the pet free from exposure to table scraps or disposed food. A weight management protocol that is carefully followed is productive and safe. Once a healthy weight is achieved, a maintenance diet and exercise schedule should be followed maybe throughout a lifetime.