Obesity in Pets

Explore the health risks associated with obesity in dogs and offer some useful tips for improving your pet’s health and wellbeing.

CAUSES OF OBESITY IN PETS

A survey by veterinarians revealed that, in their view, only 3% of obese pets had a health condition that contributed to their excess weight. Such conditions include Cushing’s Disease and hypothyroidism. This means that the remaining 97% of overweight canines pets were overweight because of how their owner looked after them – too much food, too many treats and not enough exercise.

Contrary to popular belief, desexing doesn’t make your dog fat, but it may change his metabolism so he doesn’t need as many calories. Desexing is also usually done at around 6 months of age, when his growth rate is levelling out and his energy needs are reducing.

HEALTH RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH OBESITY

Your overweight pet is at risk of a number of conditions that can make life less than enjoyable for him.

  • Arthritis. If his joints have to carry a lot of weight, then they are subject to more wear and tear. This can lead to degeneration of the cartilage and painful arthritis.
  • Breathing difficulties. It’s not easy for your dog to breathe when there is a layer of fat surrounding his chest.
  • Pets with diabetes and heart disease are more difficult to manage with medication if they are obese.

Even if your pet doesn’t suffer from any of these conditions, it has been shown that if his food intake is restricted throughout his life, he is likely to live longer.

IS YOUR PET OBESE?

It’s not always easy to look at your pet and get a good idea of it's body condition. Some dogs and cats have thick coats that make it hard to see what’s underneath. This is why you need to use your hands as well as your eyes to tell if your dog or cat is carrying too much weight.

Look at your dog from the side and from above. You should see an obvious waistline just after his ribs. If it isn’t there, if your dog’s body is essentially rectangular, then he needs to lose weight.

Move your hands over your dog’s chest and feel his ribs. If you can find them fairly easily, this indicates that he is in good condition. If you can’t feel his ribs at all, then there is work to be done.

Obesity is a preventable condition that has many adverse effects on your dog’s health. If your canine best friend is carrying a few extra kilos, put him on a diet. He’ll enjoy a better quality of life, for longer. (below is an illustration of the effects obedity can have on your pet).