Is Your Dog Overweight?
Just like humans, obesity is a major problem currently affecting dogs in the UK. Excess weight places a dog at risk for a multitude of health problems that include cardiovascular disease, depression, diabetes mellitus, joint disorders, and respiratory problems. It is vitally important to be able to recognise the ‘signs’ of obesity and take the correct action. Even more important is knowing how to keep your dog in good condition from the start, therefore avoiding the onset of obesity in the first place.
Being able to tell if you have an overweight dog can be tricky. Obesity is defined as an excessive accumulation of body fat to the point of being 20 per cent or more over ideal body weight. Weight gain occurs when the amount of calories consumed exceeds the amount of calories expended on a daily basis, and can be a slow and gradual process or occur rapidly. The causes of obesity generally fall into three categories:
- Genetic Predisposition
- Hormonal Disorders
The most common cause of obesity in dogs is a combination of overfeeding and lack of activity. Many dog owners give in to the temptation to sneak a snack to their dogs, whether it is dog food or even some of the family meal. Feeding leftovers or giving frequent snacks and treats will lead to a dog becoming overweight, especially when you consider the lifestyle that dogs lead – a more confined sedentary and non-active life.
Another factor that can lead to obesity is a dog’s genetics. Certain breeds seem to be more susceptible to obesity than others such as basset hounds, beagles, dachshunds and Labrador retrievers. While some breeds of dog may gain weight more easily, it does not give owners an excuse to let their dog become overweight. Careful attention must be taken to the amount of food and exercise your dog receives in order to maintain a healthy body weight.
Obesity can be formed through certain diseases that impact hormone balances in dogs. These include thyroid or pituitary gland dysfunction. Castration and spaying also alter the hormonal balance of dogs, sometimes causing reduced activity and changes in metabolism. These factors can contribute to obesity, and increase the need for carefully controlling food intake as well as increasing exercise in neutered dogs.