I see it every day in my clinic – dogs whose extra few pounds have grown to become an impediment to an active, healthy life.
An estimated 35 percent of dogs are overweight, with 20.6 percent obese, according to the annual Association for Pet Obesity Prevention survey. The survey found that obesity rates escalated from just over 10 percent in 2007 to 20 percent in 2010. Their data fit with our observations and experience.
A more meaningful number, though, is the number two.
As in two years.
A fourteen-year study conducted by Purina and published by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medicine Association found that, on average, overweight dogs die nearly two years earlier than their healthy weight peers and the health complications from the extra weight have a huge impact on their quality of life.
When dogs become obese, their bodies begin to work against them. Hormones produced by the fat cells are no longer in a healthy balance when there are extra and larger fat cells, and this sets up a very unhealthy condition within the body. Changes in their bodies can lower their metabolism, increase their appetite, and even cause or worsen other serious medical conditions. In fact, just a few extra pounds can lead to serious health complications such as osteoarthritis, respiratory conditions and skin/coat infections.
Pet owners need to take a proactive stance and intervene when they notice their dog is gaining weight. Of course, it’s important to check in with us before making diet or exercise changes for your dog. Here are a few tips to begin a healthy weight loss regimen and reduce their risk of health complications:
**Diet: Try to resist the puppy eyes. Most dogs will eat as much food as they are given. Cutting out unnecessary treats & people food and reducing quantity of dog food are the first steps to take when starting a weight loss plan for your dog. If you’re curious about how much you should feed, visit our previous post: How much should I feed my pet? Further, there is much to be said about the quality of a diet. I am acutely aware of the ongoing discussion of the benefits of RAW vs. Home-Cooked vs. Commercial diets. For the purposes of this post, I think we can all agree that an excess of calories is not good for dogs, and that meal and treat portions should be controlled.
**Exercise: Engage your dog in an activity daily. Going for a walk, playing frisbee, and swimming in the neighborhood lake are all good ways to knock off a few pounds.
**Pharmaceutical Intervention: It is not politically correct to say so, but obesity is a disease. Diseases should not be taken lightly and should be treated. Yes, the obese dog was overfed initially, and that’s often the fault of the humans involved. However, once the state of obesity has been achieved, the hormonal activity of fat can set up a condition under which no amount of diet and exercise is going to take the dog back to a healthy body condition.
If you’re frustrated with constant dieting and exercising that is seemingly going nowhere, let’s have a conversation about a good, safe, effective intervention option. This plan, coupled with diet and exercise, can be the treatment necessary to reverse the disease of obesity. Safe and healthy weight-management programs are available, and the pharmaceutical intervention is not life-long.
For more information on canine obesity, please visit www.slentrol.com. The veterinarians at the Cuyahoga Falls Veterinary Clinic have extensive experience in all three of these areas, and we can discuss with you the three-pronged approach to getting your dog to a healthy weight and body condition. Give us a call 330-929-3223.