Why is obesity bad for dogs?
Obesity is becoming a very serious health crisis for dogs in the US. According to the Association For Pet Obesity Prevention 2016 survey, over 50% of dogs and cats are obese. Poor diet and low-quality food are one of the many causes of pet obesity. But also, pets getting too many high calories treats and pets not getting enough exercise are common factors in pets becoming obese.
Many dog owners don’t think it’s a big deal if their dog has a bit of a belly or puts on a little weight. But abdominal fat can cause major health problems in dogs the same way it can do for humans. And when dogs don’t get enough exercise they can quickly become obese.
Obesity is especially a problem for small breeds and toy breeds because of their small size. These breeds are also more likely to become obese because they often are given large amounts of treats or human food because their owners think it’s cute. But small dogs, especially small stocky dogs, can quickly develop respiratory problems and heart problems from carrying extra weight.
The Internet may have contributed to the pet obesity problem by promoting the image of chubby dogs as cute or adorable. Many of the most popular dog accounts on Instagram and other social media show dogs that are overweight or obese. But owners need to be aware that by letting their dogs become obese they could be shortening the life span of their dog and increasing the dog’s risk of serious health problems.
It’s time for pet owners to put down the treats and stop overfeeding our dogs. If you don’t, your dog could be at risk for many health problems.
Risks of pet obesity
According to research and veterinarians, these are the top 10 most serious dangers of dog obesity:
1. Lack of Stamina
An obese dog usually has trouble going for walks and probably isn’t doing much running at the dog park. That’s because all that extra weight can make dogs lose their stamina for exercise. They will have increased trouble running, jumping and playing. And the most of their stamina they lose, the harder it is for them to exercise and lose the weight they need to lose on the other hand.
2. Respiratory Problems
Dogs that carry extra weight are at high risk for developing breathing problems like shortness of breath and sleep apnea, according to PetMD. Extra fat in the chest can make it more difficult for the dog’s lungs to expand. That means that the dog can’t take deep breaths and may not be getting the oxygen they need to stay healthy. This can cause sleeping problems as well as wheezing or other problems that make it difficult for dogs to walk or run.
3. Intolerance of Hot/Cold Temperatures
Being obese can make it harder for a dog’s body to adjust to both very hot and very cold temperatures. And since in most places the summers have been getting and the winters are getting colder that means that dogs can suffer from more weather-related illnesses. In addition to putting obese dogs on diets to shed body fat, dog owners should also make sure that their dogs have appropriate weather gear to help them deal with extreme temperatures.
4. High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is also sometimes called hypertension and it can be fatal for obese dogs. The heart must work even harder to pump oxygen rich blood throughout the dog’s body when the dog is obese. That extra work can lead to congestive heart failure, which is fatal, if it’s left untreated.
There are some medications that can help reduce the blood pressure but the best way to fix this problem is to bring the dog back to a healthy weight. Dogs who are already obese should be put on a strict exercise regimen prescribed by their vet in order to get their weight under control and lower their risk of high blood pressure.
Diabetes has become a major health problem in dogs. So many dogs now are obese that diabetes rates have increased dramatically. Just like in humans, being obese substantially raises the possibility of the dog developing diabetes. Diabetes can be difficult to mange in dogs and often ends up causing other illnesses that may be fatal.
Diabetes cases in dogs are on the rise because so many owners overfeed their dogs or feed them too many rich and high calorie treats. In order to lower your dog’s risk of diabetes you should always feed the dog the recommended amount of food for its breed and size and not overfeed. Many dog owners are shocked to learn that they are actually overfeeding their dogs and that dogs don’t need as much food as they think.
6. Liver Disease
All of the organs and systems in the body have to work much harder in dogs that are obese. But fatty liver disease can cause the dog’s overworked liver to stop purifying the dog’s body and getting rid of toxins. When the liver isn’t working right there are a number of health problems that can happen as a result, some of which are not treatable and can lead to death.
Joint problems are common in obese dogs. Especially in small dogs who carry a lot of extra weight, arthritis can become a painful problem. Dogs with arthritis have painful swollen joints that can make even a regular walk uncomfortable or painful.
Supplements can help minimize the pain of arthritis and some medications can help get rid of inflammation in the joints but ultimately the only way to reduce the pain of arthritis is for the dog to lose weight.
If your dog already has stiff joints and arthritis that make exercise difficult, talk to your vet about how to keep your dog at a healthy weight. Reducing the amount of food you give, or switching to a lower calorie dog food are both good ways to help your dog lose weight.
As your dog loses weight you will probably see a big change in their activity level. When dogs drop excess weight they are more likely to be energetic and have less pain. Then they can exercise more to stay at a healthy weight.
8. Increased Surgical Risk
Because dogs who are obese have respiratory and heart problems there is an increased risk that they will die under anesthesia. So dogs who are obese and get hurt in an accident, need to be spayed or fixed, or undergo anesthesia for dental work and cleanings have a much higher risk of dying from a simple surgery than dogs who are at a healthy weight.
9. Compromised Immune Function
Dogs that are obese have a much greater chance of coming down with colds, respiratory infections and other viral and bacterial illnesses. That’s because their immune systems don’t work as well as they should. These illnesses rarely are serious on their own, but over time they can cause even more damage to the dog’s immune system. And they can be expensive to treat because they often require prescription medication.
10. Increased Cancer Risks
Probably one of the most serious health problems that can be caused by obesity in dogs is cancer. Being obese greatly increases a dog’s chance of developing cancer. And in breeds like retrievers which are already prone to developing tumors and cysts, being obese raises the chances that those tumors will be malignant.
Pet obesity prevention
A Healthy Diet Is The Most Important Thing You Can Give Your Dog
So what can you do to make sure that your dog doesn’t become obese?
“According to the vets, the best way to prevent obesity is to make sure that you are feeding your dog a high-quality dog food and follow the feeding instructions. Calorie counting is essential to avoid overfeeding.”
Cheaper dog foods made with fillers are unhealthy and can cause obesity among other health issues. It’s better to buy higher quality food and feed less of it than to buy lots of cheap food and let your dog have all the food he wants. That huge bag of discount store food is actually mostly corn and grain filler, which is not healthy for your dog. A food that is low in carbs and high in protein is what vets recommend.
Vets also recommend that people cut back on the number of treats that they give their dogs. Feeding lots of high-calorie treats can make dogs to gain weight quickly. So, if you want to give treats to your dog look for high quality low calorie treats. High protein treats are also good for dogs because they need the protein and high protein treats with a low amount of carbs are easier for dogs to digest.
Another thing that dog owners should do to help get their dog to a healthy weight is to make sure the dog gets regular daily exercise. Daily walks are great. But daily walks plus a few agility training sessions or visits to the dog park each week are even better.