Excessive Weight in Dogs
Obesity is a nutritional disease which is defined by an excess of body fat. Dogs that are over nourished, lack the ability to exercise, or that have a tendency to retain weight are the most at risk for becoming obese. Obesity can result in serious adverse health effects, such as reducing the lifespan, even if your dog is only moderately obese. Multiple areas of the body are affected by excess body fat, including the bones and joints, the digestive organs, and the organs responsible for breathing capacity.
Obesity is common in dogs of all ages, but it usually occurs in middle-aged dogs, and generally in those that are between the ages of 5 and 10. Neutered and indoor dogs also tend to have a higher risk of becoming obese.
If you would like to read how obesity affects cats, please visit this page in the PetMD health library.
- Weight gain
- Excess body fat
- The inability (or unwillingness) to exercise
- An above-ideal score in a body condition assessment
There are several causes of obesity. It is mosty commonly caused by an imbalance between the energy intake and its usage -- eating more than the dog can possibly expend. Obesity also becomes more common in old age because of the normal decrease in a dog's ability to exercise. Unhealthy eating habits, such as high-calorie foods, an alternating diet, and frequent treats can also bring on this condition.
Other common causes include:
Obesity is diagnosed primarily by measuring the dog's body weight or by scoring its body condition, which involves assessing its body composition. Your veterinarian will do this by examining your dog, palpating its ribs, lumbar area, tail, and head. The results are then compared to the breed standard.
If a dog is obese, it will have an excess body weight of approximately 10 to 15 percent. In the nine-point scoring system, dogs which have a body condition score greater than seven are considered to be obese.
Treatment for obesity is focused on weight loss and maintaining a decreased body weight for the long term. This is accomplished by reducing caloric intake and increasing your dog's time spent exercising. Your veterinarian will most likely have a prepared diet plan that you can use to refigure your dog's eating schedule, or will help you to create a long-term diet plan for your dog.
Diets that are rich in dietary protein and fiber, but low in fat, are typically recommended, since dietary protein stimulates metabolism and energy expenditure, along with giving the feeling of fullness, so that your dog will not feel hungry again shortly after eating. Dietary fiber, on the other hand, contains little energy but stimulates intestinal metabolism and energy use at the same time.
Increasing your dog's physical activity level is vital for successful treatment. The most common suggestions for dogs are leash walking for at least 15 minutes, twice a day, and playing games such as fetch.
Living and Management
The follow-up treatment for obesity includes communicating regularly with your veterinarian about the weight reduction program, monthly monitoring of your dog's weight, and establishing a life-time weight maintenance program once your dog's ideal body condition score has been achieved. With a firm commitment to your dog's health and weight, you will feel confident that your dog is eating healthy and feeling its best.