Dog Obesity

They say, a fat dog is a sign of an owner not getting enough exercise. Obesity, as we all understand is a direct result of excess calorie consumption as against the calorie burnout. These excess calories store themselves as fat cells. Over eating and less exercise is not the only reason for obesity though it may seem like the most obvious. It is one of the main reasons, but there are some other predisposed factors which also cause obesity in dogs. When these factors creep in, often a vicious cycle ensues requiring medical and at times surgical intervention. This article looks at some of these factors and also tell you how to do a quick obesity check on your pet.

· Why Obesity occurs

· A quick check of your own pet

· Problems due to Obesity

Factors leading to obesity

Breed

Certain breeds are just “born eaters”. The first name which comes to most minds is the Labrador Retriever. In the smaller breeds– Basset Hounds, Dachshunds, Pugs are most likely to be obese and tend to over eat. In the large breed category, Labradors, Golden Retrievers. These breeds need a close supervision on their food intake. A strict diet in terms of meal timings and meal quantities has to be followed.

Sterilization

A common belief is that Sterilization is the only reason for dogs to put on weight. But that’s not entirely true. Sterilization also causes hormonal changes and causes a decrease in the body metabolic rate. This is the real reason for the weight gain. Weight gain that follows sterilization surgery may be linked to those hormone changes. The weight may aggravate if you continue the same diet which is high in energy. But after sterilization, as the need for energy reduces, the diet therefore needs to be relooked at. Excess energy in the food becomes excess fat on the body.

Hormonal Imbalance

Dogs, like humans can have a thyroid condition. Human conditions such as “Hypothyroidism” where the glands don’t produce sufficient hormones and “Hyperadrenocortism” also called the Cushing’s disease which is a condition wherein excess adrenal hormone is produced can occur in Canines. Weight gain is just one of the symptoms of a canine thyroid condition. Other symptoms include lethargy, dull coats, skin conditions. So if you feel that your dog is undergoing a few recurring problems, consult your vet to rule out the possibility.

Diet & Nutrition

Dog’s diet requirement changes with the stage that he is in– puppy, growth, adolescence, adult. So, choose the right food for your dog as per his age and energy requirement. Specialised foods such as weight management, hypo-allergic diet are also now made available by pet food companies. Over or under feeding– both are bad for your dog. Check with your vet, keep a track on  the activity levels of your pet and decide his diet accordingly. Avoid in-between meal time snacks and irregular feeding. Try and get your pet used to healthy treats like carrots or green beans.

Is your pet obese?

1. Can you feel your pet dog’s ribs with a gentle pressure on the side or the rib cage?

2. Can you identify a “waist”? Is there a slight cut/ indentation where the ribs end and the hips begin?

3. Can you feel the hip bones with a slight pressure of your palm?

4. Is your pet  slow or reluctant to exercise?

5. Are his getting up and sitting down movements very slow?

6. Does he tire out very easily?

7. Does he have a distinct limp while he walks?

Mostly “NO’s” to the first three questions and mostly “YES’s” to the last three questions would mean YES!! Your pet is headed towards obesity. Get a vet check up done immediately. Relook at the diet and exercise pattern and keep the obesity in control

Problems caused due to Obesity

Joints, Bones and Ligament damage

Extra weight brings about extra pressure on all the joints and ligaments. Arthritis is one such problem directly associated with  weight. If your dog suffers from hip dysplasia (HD), the joint changes and the pain due to HD can be markedly severe.

Diabetes

Diabetes is a common complication for over weight dogs. Diabetes is a condition where the Insulin produced by body is not sufficient as there is a greater amount of “tissue” in an over weight dog.

Heart problems and Respiratory problems, decreased stamina

High blood pressure and hyper tension are again directly related to over weight dogs. As the excess fat layers around the lungs, the chest does not get the space to expand on breathing especially after a strenuous activity like a walk. Getting tired to early, panting out loud after a little activity are all signs on decreased stamina.

Intolerance to heat

Summers can be very difficult for overweight dogs. The excess fat can hinder body temperature regulation. Over weight dogs are more prone to heat strokes in summer months.

Skin problems

Due to excess fat deposits, your dg might develop dry skin or itchy patches which could result in hair loss and over all dullness of the coat.

To sum it all up, Obesity overall hampers the quality of life your dog leads. Regular and strict exercise schedules, proper diet which means proper quantity and also the right amount of nutrients are the two main and most important factors to be kept under control and constant supervision.  An untreated obesity problem, can lead to some devastating results. So keep a constant check and  keep the weight under control.  A healthy dog is also a happy dog.

Small fixes for weight management

* Cut down on snacks in between meals.

* Shift to healthy snacks like carrots or green beans as treat

* Stick to meal timings. Don’t make food available for your dog every time he demands it.

* Keep aside some time to exercise with your pet, if not every day, every week. Let it be strenuous

* Choose the diet according to the dogs growth stage. A variety is available in various brands. Check with your vet and make an informed decision.

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Jul, 09/Dog Obesity/www.petsitters.co.in

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