by Audrey Harvey, DVM
Dog obesity has been a popular topic in the media in recent weeks. In fact, a study by Glasgow University in Scotland in July 2010 found that 60% of dogs in their area were overweight.
Dog owners may not realize that obesity is just as harmful for our four legged family members as it is for us. People who own an obese dog may not in fact be aware that their dog has a problem; because it is so common, we have come to see overweight dogs as normal.
What Makes Dogs Obese?
An Australian study found that only 3% of obese dogs had a medical reason such as hypothyroidism for their condition. The other 97% were overweight because of their owners. In a nutshell, these dogs were fed too much of the wrong type of food, and didn’t get enough exercise to burn off the extra calories.
Extra Pounds are Extra Work
If your dog has to carry excess weight, it will affect his legs. There will be more wear and tear on the cartilage in his joints, which will ultimately cause arthritis. Because going for a walk will be painful, he won’t burn up any calories so his waistline is likely to grow.
Diabetes is more common in overweight dogs, as is heart failure. Perhaps the most frightening effect of obesity on our dogs is that it shortens their lifespan by up to 2 years. This means that your beloved companion may die sooner than if he was in lean condition. That’s a very good reason to start him on a weight loss program.
How to Manage an Obese Dog
If you are concerned that your dog is overweight, have him examined by your veterinarian to rule out any health issues that may be causing his increased waistline. If he checks out well, then it’s time for work. Weight loss is a matter of reducing the number of calories your dog takes in, and increasing the number he burns up during the course of the day. It sounds easy, but it’s not.
Let’s look at how we can reduce the calories your dog eats. Firstly, cut out any between-meal snacks. He really doesn’t need a biscuit or dog treat while you have a cup of tea. Next, look at his food. You have two choices here: you can either reduce the amount of food you put in his bowl or feed him a prescription weight loss diet. Prescription diets are designed to help your dog lose weight without him feeling like he is being starved, and are very effective.
The next step is to make sure that your dog is getting plenty of exercise and burning more calories each day. Be careful, because your dog is carrying excess weight, and too much walking can hurt his joints. A better way to exercise your dog, at least until he loses some weight is to take him swimming, so he doesn’t put any stress on his joints. He can swim in a swimming pool if you have one, or in a nearby ocean or lake.
You may live near a canine therapy center that has swimming pools specifically for dogs. They may even have an underwater treadmill, which allows your dog to walk while the water supports his body.
While your dog is exercising the pounds off his waistline, he will benefit from some pain relief for his legs. Joint Resolution was developed by a medical herbalist, and contains all natural ingredients to increase joint health and mobility. Specifically, BioCell Collagen II will help to build new cartilage, and improve the cushioning effect of the joint fluid.
It’s up to you to help your dog lose weight. Be strong, and don’t give in to those pleading brown eyes when he begs for a treat. It could be a matter of life or death.
Audrey Harvey is a veterinarian who has worked in small animal practice for 20 years, and has been involved in teaching and competing in dog obedience and agility. She is passionate about preventative health care in dogs, particularly obesity management and the prevention of boredom related behavioral problems. Audrey lives in Brisbane Australia, and shares her couch with an Australian Cattle Dog, an Australian Working Kelpie and two Whippets.