How to Help Your Overweight Dog

Obesity is nowadays a problem that affects not only humans but also our pets.

Just as in humans, eating too much and not practicing physical exercise is an unhealthy habit for any dog and eventually, this will bring problems like being overweight.

We are generally unaware of the damage we can cause to our dog when we do not properly meet the basic needs of nutrition and exercise the dog needs.

The good news is that we can help an obese dog to be healthier with exercise and proper nutrition. 

If your dog is overweight or you suspect it, stay tuned because we will explain to you how to help your overweight dog, what actions to take, solutions, tips, and much more in this blog.

Why Dogs Might Get Overweight?

If your dog has gained weight and is considered obese by your veterinarian, it is important to know what this means for its general health.

Lack of exercise, inappropriate diet, and the confusion of some owners who interpret food as a way of giving affection to their dogs are the main causes of this problem. 

These are some of the factors that can lead your dog to become overweight:

Improper diet

Most dogs develop overweight from eating an inappropriate diet either because of excess calories, nutrient imbalance, or giving them an excessive amount of food.

Also, because many pet owners make the mistake of using food as a reward during training or as a way to give affection.

And as is the case with humans, a diet based on poor quality products, even if the quantities are respected, can lead to a significant increase in weight.

Drastic changes in diet and uncontrolled eating schedules are not good either, as this results in the intake of more calories than necessary.

That is why it is very important that a dog’s diet is varied and achieves an adequate nutritional balance for its weight, breed, and age. 

Lack of physical activity

Poor nutrition is complemented by a lack of exercise.

This is because the fatter the dog gets, the more fatigue and less willingness to exercise, and this, in turn, favors the accumulation of excess calories in the form of fat.

Genetic factors

Genetic factors affect more than we think since certain breeds accumulate more easily the calories stored in their body in the form of fat.

Breeds such as Labrador and Golden retriever, Collie, Beagle, Cocker spaniel, Basset Hound, Scottish terrier, Teckel, Chihuahua, etc. Are more genetically predisposed to suffer from obesity.

Age

Several studies agree that the frequency of overweight in dogs increases with their age. Being less common in puppies and young dogs up to 12 months of age and more common in adult and senior dogs.

Anxiety

This can also be an important factor, as it causes the dog to eat more and faster, gobbling up the food.

Health risks of overweight in dogs

An excess of kilos is considered a risk factor for different diseases, it produces changes in their metabolism and favors the appearance of pathologies

If your dog is overweight or obese, it runs a higher risk of suffering a series of serious diseases such as the ones you will see below.

Respiratory problems

Overweight dogs have difficulty breathing well. It is difficult for them to properly inhale the air they need.

The fat that accumulates in the abdomen presses their diaphragm and reduces their lung capacity. Overweight dogs may also present hypertension, hypoglycemia, insulin resistance or breast tumors in female dogs.

Besides, in these cases, the heart has a hard time pumping blood and distributing it to a body that is out of its dimensions. All this increases problems such as heart pressure, risk of heart attack, and angina pectoris.

These respiratory problems are even more common in dogs with brachycephalic syndrome, and in case the animal needs surgery, being overweight can be a risk factor during the process.

It also represents a problem where cases of sterility and serious problems in the births have appeared in the case of female dogs.

Arthritis and joint degeneration

The excess weight causes the muscles and joints to suffer, it also causes extra pressure on the bones, which can cause the animal to not walk well and even break some of them.

The calories not consumed accumulate in fatty (or adipose) tissues. However, the skeleton of the dog is not always prepared to support weight well above its appropriate size.

Diabetes

Overweight causes insulin resistance, which prevents the dog from producing this important regulating hormone while also helping in the excessive accumulation of sugar in the blood. As a result, the dog can develop diabetes mellitus.

Castration

Castration and sterilization is another reason why they can put on weight. By slowing down their metabolism, we have to adjust the diet to the new situation.

Significant decrease in life expectancy.

If overweight is not prevented or stopped in time, dogs will have a shorter life expectancy than dogs that are of adequate weight.

Other diseases associated with overweight and obesity in dogs are: 

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Cystitis and urinary tract diseases.
  • Intervertebral disc problems
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Lipomas
  • Hepatitis and other hepatopathies
  • Cruciate ligament injuries
  • Chronic kidney disease

What to Do If Your Dog is Overweight?

Beyond an aesthetic or external issue, a dog must be at its ideal weight to avoid the health problems mentioned above. 

And the main problem that overweight dogs have is us, the owners. 

Not only because it is our responsibility to provide them with a balanced diet and the physical activity they need, but also, because we generally do not pick up the signs or we find it hard to admit that our dog is fat.

Since canine obesity is so common, “most people wouldn’t know if they’re overfeeding their dog,” says Monique Udell, an animal behaviorist at Oregon State University1.

“The more they see other people’s dogs of similar weight, it becomes harder and harder to recognize.”

The first step should always be a visit to the veterinarian to evaluate the health status of our pet to know its general health.

Determine the Degree of Overweight

Look at your dog objectively to determine if he is overweight. All it takes is a body inspection.

Physical signs of overweight in dogs:

Feel their ribs. Lightly press and touch the ribs to see if you can feel them without difficulty. For long-haired breeds, try touching them with your hands under the hair.

Look at the dog’s body from two directions. Top and side, check if the waist shape is absent, also, check if its back shows a slight widening when viewed from above.

Check the base of the tail. A common sign is when it is thickened and under the skin, there is a considerable amount of fat.

Check its chest. Your dog’s chest should be wider than its abdomen, with a noticeable indentation from chest to stomach.

The dog is panting when walking. walks slower than before, or sleeps more than usual.

Avoid unhealthy habits

  • Avoid overfeeding, giving food as a form of endearment, letting the dog eat as much as he wants
  • Don’t let your dog eat everything it wants when it asks for it. Don’t give it leftovers.
  • Do not give it inappropriate food for its breed or age.
  • Don’t give it all the food of the day in one portion
  • Don’t overdo it with treats. Their composition makes them very tasty, but they are also high in calories. 

Control food portions

Calculating portions is not always easy, but in this case, you can consult a veterinarian.

You should develop a feeding plan according to your dog’s needs that has all the nutrients it needs but does not contain fats or carbohydrates.

In this feeding plan, you should control the food ration you give to your dog, take into account what foods it receives and what combinations.

They should be rich in fiber, including proteins that are easy to digest to get the energy that dogs need.

It should be a food that makes dogs feel satisfied and that they do not feel anxious about the change of their usual food ration.

In the case of overweight dogs suffering from diabetes, specific veterinary diets with low carbohydrate content can be recommended.

Use meal times

Make sure your dog eats at set times so you will also know how much it is eating and when.

Also, ask everyone close to you not to feed the dog without your consent. Everyone must be aware of this to help the dog make a change.

Increases physical activity

Considering your dog’s possible breathing problems and the extra weight on the joints and bones, it is best to start with gentle exercises that will increase as it loses weight and gains muscle.

It is possible that at the beginning the dog is reluctant to move more, so you must create an environment where it feels happy and stimulated to have activities with you. 

Use its favorite toys, go to that park it likes so much, etc. That depends on you, in the end you know your best friend better than anyone else.

To do this start by increasing the daily walks, if before they lasted 5 minutes now they should last longer, make them longer.

Increase its exercise routine every 15 days, start with walks and then introduce games, for example. 

Always check its breathing, its level of tiredness, that the dog is not overheated, etc. And if you notice fatigue, give it a break and resume later. 

Monitor your dog’s progress

This process takes anywhere from months to a year and involves time and effort. Probably at the beginning, the change does not feel very good to what it was used to.

For some dog owners it is hard to watch their dog ask for food and know that you can’t give it food, but giving in will only slow the process down. If your dog was receiving affection in the form of treats, replace it with other things like games, affection, attention, etc.

Check once a week how your dog is feeling, if it is tired, sad, energetic, getting better, etc. This will serve to evaluate its evolution and will be very useful information for the next visit to the vet.

Tips to Help Your Dog

  • Your dog should be fed with specific food for weight loss. Choose a good commercial brand with the help of the veterinarian.
  • Foods that say “food flavored with…” are harmful. This type of food does not contain real animal protein but is artificially flavored.
  • If you have the chance to take your dog to places like the pool or the beach, do it! This would be a great exercise, as it costs them less effort. As your dog will not only carry its weight on its legs but will distribute it on different parts of its body.
  • There are specific pharmacy products to make your dog lose weight. The function of these drugs is to decrease appetite. But these products should only be used as a last resort if the animal is unable to lose weight so, before considering them, discuss it with the veterinarian.
  • A tip for your dog to be calm when you eat is to give it a short walk and give it its food ration before your mealtime, this way it will be satisfied and tired and will not ask for food.
  • Prevent your dog from eating too fast. For this purpose, you can use kibble dispensers that make it a little difficult for the dog, in the midst of anxiety, to eat too fast. 

Ready to Help Your Dog?

For your best friend to be strong, healthy, and full of energy it is important to control their nutrition and weight.

When the dog reaches its ideal weight, you have to continue with veterinary advice, so that it does not regain the lost weight. Yes, they are not free from the well-known rebound effect either.

After all, a healthy dog is a happy dog for the family to enjoy for years to come.

Reference

1. Is Your Dog Overweight? You May Not Realize It. (nationalgeographic.com)

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