Weight control in fat dogs

Why are fat dogs a problem?

Fat dogs, slightly overweight dogs ranging to obese dogs all have higher risks of developing obesity-related diseases.

dog on scales

An overweight dog has a higher risk of developing the following health issues:

  • Osteoarthritis.
  • Diabetes mellitus (or canine diabetes).
  • Cardio respiratory disease.
  • Dermatological problems.
  • Neoplasia.

Then some practicalities that go along with this:

  • More visits to the doctor.
  • Higher vet bills and/or insurance costs.

Also, as calorie restriction is known to increase life span, fat dogs have a higher chance of dying much too early and then you loose a good friend!

How many dogs are overweight and why?

Current estimates are that 25 to 30% of the total dog population in developed countries is overweight whereas 4% is actually obese. That is way too many fat dogs! Obesity in dogs has become the number 1 food-related health issue!

Obesity can only develop when dietary energy intake is in excess of energy expenditure. However, certain predisposing factors exist. Let's have a look at those.

Predisposing factors for canine obesity

  • Breed (for instance Labrador Retrievers seem to have a head start on thickening waistlines).
  • Age.
  • Gender.
  • Neutering (due to a combination of hormone changes together with consumption of too many calories and lack of exercise).
  • Physical activity.
  • Endocrine disorders.

An obesity epidemic? Why do we see more fat dogs nowadays?

The funny story that a dog resembles its owner more and more in time is often true. Owners who eat too many calories and exercise too little are likely to pass these habits on to their furry friend. Also the pet pampering trend is provoking obesity as your dog may get more treats and snacks than is good for his health. And just because we all love our dogs and want to show them our affection we spoil them. And since we all seem to have stuffed agenda's these days, this is often done by giving them more food, table scraps or nice treats.

Sure it can be tough to resist when you dog is looking up at you with those plaintive eyes. Who can resist that look when he's just begging for more? You can!, since you should know better. It is a habit your dog has developed because he was rewarded and you can again train him to stop doing it. There are many other ways to show your affection towards your canine companion.

Feeding tidbits is often used by dog owners as a handy and agreeable form of communication and interaction. Of course it is perfectly sensible to use dog treats when you are training your dog. But use small treats and make sure your dog really works for it.

What can I do to make my fat dog healthy and fit?

Increase exercise to burn those calories

There is of course nothing wrong with loving your dog and you can spoil him to certain extent. The healthiest "spoiling method" would be to indulge him by taking him on a hike through the forest, a walk along the beach, and a lot of play and training sessions. If you as a dog owner are active, so is your dog.

2 happy dogs running uphil

And hey… this benefits you as well!  It's not really spoiling, because regular exercise is a pre-requisite for a healthy dog. When the both of you are not used to walking a lot, then gradually work towards improving your condition. Increase length and frequency of your daily walks. For instance, add an extra 10 minutes every day or sprint every now and then. This of course depends on what type of dog breed you have. Just get those hearts pumping!

Decrease calorie intake and change feeding habits

Exercizing is one side of the story. At the same time you can work on the other side as well. So increasing exercise plus lowering the amounts of calories in the daily menu of your pooch. There are many specialized diet dog food menus on the market that have the label "light". Restrict feeding time to only twice a day and remove the dog food that has not been eaten after 15 minutes or so.

Doggy diet pills as a last resort

Finally, visit your veterinarian for advice. Because the numbers of fat dogs are increasing, pharmaceutical companies are developing medicines to cure this number one nutritional disorder. Early January 2007 the first doggie diet pill was approved by the FDA.

Perhaps this is a good option if all else fails. Your vet can tell you whether the newest pill for dog obesity can be helpful for your plus sized pooch. As with all medicines there are side effects. Also, this pill is no quick fix! You still need to cut down the calories and increase the exercise… so do yourself and your furry friend a favor… go play and run in the woods.

Do you have a fat loss tip to share?

Do you own a dog who recently has lost some weight? Then please share your experience and tips with our readers so other dogs can benefit.

Other fat loss tips for dogs

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Recommended resource about dog health issues

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