This Article is About
health problems
overweight dogs
average life expectancy
health consequences
unnecessary strain
excess pounds
dog owner
excess weight
health risks
misconception
Health Problems - Obese Dog
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Health Problems  -  Obese Dog

I have a constant battle on my hands these days. I have a daily “skirmish” with my overweight Labrador over the amount of food he eats. This is a breed of dog well known for their love of food, but there does seem to be a misconception that it’s Ok for them to gain weight in their middle to senior years. In fact some of my dog loving friends kind of “accept” that this is what happens as dogs get older. But it doesn’t have to be this way. I would argue that, just as many humans watch their weight, perhaps we should be doing the same for our pets.

Obese dogs put extra, unnecessary strain on their joints, ligaments and virtually every organ in their body. How do I know this? My Labrador is overweight and I know all too well that the health consequences of canine obesity can be serious. In fact the health risks are so great, every dog owner should be aware of them. Take for instance these scary statistics:

Frightening facts

• 55.6% of all dogs in the US are now obese (Association Of Pet Obesity Protection)

• 95% of obese dogs have the condition because they eat too much

• 25% of all overweight dogs develop serious joint damage

• 1 in 500 dogs will develop diabetes as a result of being overweight

• Obesity lowers a dog’s average life expectancy by 2.5 years.

Here are some of the illnesses that can develop because of those extra pounds.

Osteoarthritis

My senior Labrador has just been diagnosed with arthritis. He is of an age when arthritis can be expected, but in this case, it has been linked to him carrying excess weight. Now I realise that there are several potential causes of arthritis, but a dog which is overweight has a significantly greater chance of developing the condition.

Arthritis is joint pain. Excess pounds put more pressure on the joints and chronic pain is the result. If a young dog with arthritis gains weight, the condition will be aggravated. Most vets will advise weight control as a way of managing the condition. Research has shown that just by shedding a few pounds a big difference can be made to an arthritic dog’s quality of life.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a different condition which can affect dogs of any age. It’s an autoimmune disease which attacks healthy joints, but again, the condition only gets worse if the joints have to support excess weight.

Joints and ligaments

The cruciate ligament, located in the knee joint, gradually weakens in dogs as they get older. As a result even “normal” activities can damage it. Many experts suggest obesity increases the risk of damage to the cruciate, although there is no conclusive scientific research that points to a link. However, it has been proven that avoiding obesity reduces the severity of arthritis in other joints making a link with the cruciate all the more likely.

Diabetes

Diabetes Mellitus is also known as sugar diabetes. It is the most common diabetes in dogs. Fat in the body reduces the effectiveness of insulin. It typically affects dogs that are female, of middle years and who are overweight.

Heart and blood pressure (Hypertension)

Just like humans, overweight dogs develop high blood pressure because the heart has to work harder to pump blood to the excess tissue. It can cause the heart to fail.

Breathing problems

Fat in the chest can affect the lungs so they do not work properly. Lungs have to work harder because the increase in body tissues increases the demand for oxygen. Fat can also settle in the abdomen so there is less space for the lungs to expand.

Liver disease

The liver is known to carry out more than 1000 bio chemical processes in a dog’s body. These processes cannot be carried out by any other organ. An obese dog will store surplus fat in the liver which can then decrease its function. The condition is called hepatic lipidosis.

Cancer

There is still much needed research in this area but it seems obese dogs are susceptible to certain cancers particularly of the urinary bladder.

Digestive problems

Overweight dogs tend to have unpleasant problems associated with intestinal gas and flatulence. There is also an increased risk of constipation.

Other complications overweight dogs can suffer include:

Heat intolerance – fat insulates the body and makes it difficult for dogs to regulate their body temperature

Difficulty exercising

Increased risk if surgery /anaesthetics are required – anaesthetics are absorbed by fatty tissue so it takes longer for the dog to come after from surgery. Anaesthetics are also broken down in the liver and if obesity has caused the liver function to decrease it takes the dog longer to recover.

Skin, hair and coat problems

Problems giving birth

I failed to recognise my Labradors weight gain initially. If I could turn back the clock I would have done things differently but, we are where we are, and some months ago I decided to get his weight back to where it should be for his size and age. Over the last 6 months he has lost 4 kg in weight. What I have done to get the weight off?

  1. Changed him to a high protein, low calorie grain-free diet food.
  2. Weigh out his food instead of guessing the amounts.
  3. Bought a digital scale designed for large breed dogs and weigh him regularly.
  4. No extra snacks and no high fat treats.
  5. Upped his exercise.

Getting him down to a weight range for his size and breed has been tough, but as a family we pulled together and we’ve done it! What’s more I am confident that we can keep him at his ideal weight. He’s a beautiful dog with big brown eyes, and he looks so sad at times when he does not get a little snack from the table. But what we’re doing is for his own good. Hopefully, being better informed pet owners will be the recipe for the dog’s long, happy and healthy life.


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