Obesity is among the top most health issues being widely considered in several countries as a public health concern due to its prevalence. Excess fats and extra pounds do not only decrease an individual’s quality of life, it may also cause a wide range of health concerns that might even be life-threatening at times.
Unfortunately, the human race is not the only one in this world that is being assailed by the plague of obesity. Different surveys suggest that obesity slowly afflicts a significant population of dogs in many different countries. In the U.S., for instance, approximately 54% of dogs are obese according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. A survey conducted in the U.K., meanwhile, has suggested three in four dog care experts believe pet obesity and overweight is on the rise. In Canada, only fewer than two out of ten dog owners feed their pets with the recommended amount of dog food. These and more give us snapshots of a daunting health concern that is dog obesity.
Overweight versus obesity
Although some use these terms interchangeably, obesity and overweight are two different health conditions. Dogs whose weight are up to 15% higher than normal are considered overweight, while those whose weight are more than 15% of what is normal are considered obese. You can easily tell if your dog is overweight or obese if you can no longer feel his rib cage, because ribs are separated from the skin by just very thin layers of skin tissues, muscles, and fats.
What causes dog obesity?
Although an underlying medical condition, such as hormonal imbalance or hypothyroidism, could be the cause of obesity to some dogs, the main perpetrator of dog obesity is none other than the dog owners. Below is a list of the things that you might be guilty doing (or not doing), which may unfortunately increase your dog’s risk of overweight or obesity:
- Giving more than what the dog food package or your veterinarian suggests
- Giving too many treats
- Poor quality of food
- Providing people food and table scraps
- Not helping him exercise
- Not giving him enough time for physical activities
What are the complications?
Allowing your four-legged friend to accumulate extra pounds increases his risk of developing adverse health complications that may result in decreased quality of life, sometimes even death. The alarming consequences of tolerating that excess weight include the following:
- Mammary tumors
- Heart and lung disorders
- Disorders of the muscles, bones, or joints
- Heat stroke
- Difficulty in breathing
- Weakened immune system
- Skin conditions
What can you do?
There are a myriad of different things that you can do to help your dog achieve that ideal weight and maintain it. Here are some of them:
Cut back on treats – Admit it, you are happy seeing your dog happy. Treats make them ecstatic, and providing more of it means more licking and tail wiggling. However, this might put your pet in great health danger. The best thing to do is to plan about curtailing dog treats and redistributing it throughout the day so that your dog will still enjoy your love and care through food without having to gain enormous weight. If you live with other family members, make an action plan with them on how to cut back on treats. For instance, you might want to consider having a bowl full of healthy treats to be allocated for the whole day. If it’s empty, it’s empty.
Modify his diet – Depending on your vet’s advice, you may want to switch to fiber-rich dog foods that are known to have higher satiety value than other typical dog foods. Your vet may also recommend reducing his food portion. If putting him on diet sends him to whine and beg for more food, do not feel bad. Giving in means allowing him to gain extra pounds, making him more and more unhealthy every day.
Exercise – This does not necessarily mean your regular walk in the park. There are other unique, more exciting ways on how to let you and your dog shed some extra pounds. Here are some suggestions:
- Enrol in a doga class (yoga with your dog)
- Go skijoring with your pet
- Spend time with him on a hike (just be careful with Lyme disease-carrying ticks)
- Let him play off-leash at a local dog park
- Engage him into different sports, such as ultimate Frisbee and soccer
Just like humans, dogs need control and regulation over their eating habits. This would keep them healthy and would ensure that they are enjoying the most out of a healthy life.