Obesity in Dogs

Obese brown dog laying in tall green grass

Like their human companions, dogs are facing an epidemic of obesity. As a pet owner, I know what it is like to have an overweight pet and the impact on my wallet. I have a diabetic cat to whom I give two shots of insulin a day plus a periodic trip to the veterinarian's office for a blood screening. 

In 2015–2016, the prevalence of United States obesity was 39.8% in adults and 18.5% in youth.

In the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention's 2017 clinical survey, "56% of dogs and 60% of cats were classified as clinically overweight (body condition score (BCS) 6-7) or obese (BCS 8-9) by their veterinary healthcare professional." 

An obese dog runs the risk of health issues much like we do. Canine health risks include: 

  • Type 2 diabetes  
  • Heart and Respiratory Disease
  • Kidney Disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Orthopedic problems, ligament injuries
  • Skin disease
  • Thyroid problems
  • Seizures
  • Osteoarthritis, especially in the hip
  • Some cancers
  • Decreased life expectancy (up to 2.5 years)

Considering dogs have short lifespans, health issues can shorten them as well as impact their (and your) quality of life. 

Some consider an overweight eight-year-old dog similar to an overweight fifty-six-year-old man with many of the same health risks.

How do we know our dog is overweight?

Your veterinary professionals typically weigh your pets as part of a health assessment when you take them in for checkups. The goal is to promote a healthy, happy pet.

The Pet Nutritional Alliance provides a NUTRITIONAL CALCULATOR FOR DOGS online. This calculator includes a Body Condition Score to help determine daily nutritional requirements. While this is designed for veterinary professionals, the Body Condition Score Chart can give you a good visual idea of your pet's physical condition. But it is obvious when a dog (or cat) is obese! 

Fortunately for us and our fur buddies, the same things that help us reduce weight or maintain ideal weight is exercise and good nutrition. Just as a healthy diet and plenty of good cardiovascular exercise can trim down a chubby man; it can take the extra weight off of a dog.

Doggy diets

Visit with your veterinarian so that the doctor can determine whether your dog's weight is due to eating too many calories or an underlying health condition. Your vet can give you recommendations and suggestions about diet or exercise. Your veterinarian may recommend a consultation with a canine nutritionist.

A canine nutritionist may help determine the best diet for your obese doggy. There are many brands and types of balanced dog food on the market that can help with weight control. Or the nutritionist may recommend a veterinary therapeutic diet, a commercial diet, or a homemade diet.

Regardless of the veterinarian recommendations, any changes must be supported by family members. They need to commit to what is best for your obese dog. This means limiting caloric intake recommended by the doctor by reducing or eliminating snacks, table scraps, or extra portions of dog food.

Our dog, Coco, eats a specific portion of food at each meal. I use a small kitchen scale to weigh her meals. Coco's mid-morning snack consists of a diced small apple or half of a medium-sized apple. (I get the other half.)

We give Coco jerky treats while walking. These treats are used to reward her good behavior since she loves them.

As you can see by the back label, these treats include real meat and no fillers or grain. We buy from Thrive Market online because of the great prices and high quality products for us as well as our pets.

Healthy dog treats package showing ingredients include real meat

Dog exercise programs

The best thing for your obese couch potato is to get moving. Exercise is important for any dog and their human companions.

An inactive dog that doesn’t get enough exercise will quickly gain weight. Inactivity and poor nutrition may cause behavioral problems as well as health issues.

Dog running and playing fetch

Fortunately, most dogs love to exercise by nature. They love to run and play with their people. An obese dog may be reluctant to get up and move at first. But if you persist in walking or playing games like “fetch” (most dogs love to run after a thrown tennis ball or other object), your dog will soon come around and start enjoying the activity.

In my case, I have to be careful because of Coco's arthritis. So I have taken time to lengthen our walks together. Some days she shows no interest in a long walk. But other days, she is excited to go and explore more of the neighborhood.

The American Kennel Club has lots of information about having fun with your dog. Check out some fun things you can do.

It will take time for dog weight loss

It takes some lifestyle and diet changes for a person to arrive at their ideal weight. The same thing is true for obese dogs.

People won’t get to their ideal weight overnight when dieting and neither will a dog. No one put on those extra pounds all at once and the pounds will not come off that way either. Most dogs may take ten to twelve months to reach their ideal weight loss goal, depending upon how much extra weight must be shed. 

Help your dog live longer, happier, and healthier.

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