Pleading puppy-dog eyes, perhaps a low whine, sometimes even an encouraging lick or two. Your dog uses every trick to push your emotional buttons and snag a juicy titbit from your plate or gain an out-of-mealtime treat. You know it is a bad thing but your heart often overrules your head. All is not lost however; there is still a way to divert your dog’s greed and avoid canine obesity. Start by looking away. This will not only help manage your dog’s weight, but also address the elephant in the room – pet obesity.
Red flagging obesity
Learn to recognise the signs of obesity in a pet. You may find this difficult if you see your pet every day and don’t notice small incremental changes. Also, the furrier a dog is, the trickier it is to detect actual obesity. Because of the wide variety of breeds and cross-breeds, there is often no medically sound way to determine lower levels of obesity. However, you can assess a dog’s weight on a ‘look and feel’ basis. A good rule of thumb is that if you can feel your dog’s ribs easily without pressure, your dog is in good shape.
What to watch out for:
- Slow, lazy rolling gait or waddle
- Unenthusiastic response to exercise and play-time
- Heavy, noisy breathing
Remember, even a small amount of excess weight leads to an imbalance between energy intake and energy output and creates overweight dog health problems. If you do not take adequate measures, dog obesity can increase your dog’s risk of developing conditions and disorders that shorten its life span. Which is why, it is important to achieve and maintain your dog’s ideal weight.
Leading causes of obesity
Lack of exercise
It is important to balance exercise and diet for the overall health and wellness of your dog. Overeating (excess energy intake) compounded with a lack of exercise (deficient energy output) can make your dog pile on the fat. You need to know where the problem begins. You may need to take a harder look at those table scraps, treats between meals and snacks, which contribute towards pet obesity. If you own a dog breed such as a Cocker Spaniel, Labrador Retriever or Beagle, do remember that they are genetically more predisposed to weight gain and need you to pay greater attention to their daily exercise regimen.
Sometimes, when several dogs are nurtured in the same family, a competitive pack atmosphere develops where the dog is insecure about food being available all the time or it being taken away by a pack mate. This could cause unrestrained gluttonous behavior where the dog quickly wolfs down food without actual hunger. You should also pay attention to factors like boredom, neurohormonal imbalance, and diets with insufficient energy density or digestive conditions that could lead to uncontrolled eating. Always take the assistance of professional veterinary services to diagnose overeating and arrive at a plan that can manage such a tendency.
Effects of obesity
Overeating can have a long term effect on your pet’s ability to process glucose in its bloodstream. Some of the signs of diabetes that you should watch out for include excessive thirst, insatiable appetite and frequent urination. You may need to consult your pet’s vet to make substantial dietary changes and administer medication to manage your pet’s glucose level.
Overeating and consequent weight gain can lead to bone conditions that affect your pet’s joints, causing difficulty in movement. Therefore, it is important to pay attention to proper nutrition and exercise to prevent or delay the onset of osteoarthritis.
High Blood Pressure
High Blood Pressure is a silent killer and you should always watch out for signs of it in your dog. Your dog’s routine medical check-up should ideally catch this occurrence. However, you may need to talk to your vet about signs, risks and prevention. Diet change and exercise regime can bring down the risk while timely medication may be needed to ensure blood pressure management of your dog.
Pet obesity can start a vicious cycle that is hard to break. The more your dog falls outside the ideal weight, the more pressure on the circulatory system and less ability to exercise. This in turn leads to more weight gain and increased risk of early heart disease. Therefore it is important to create and stick to an exercise regime that can cover walks, run or simply a trip outdoors.
Lowered Immune System Function
Research shows that obesity lowers a dog’s immunity to common diseases and increases the occurrence of infections. It is therefore important for you to constantly manage your dog’s ideal weight through a system of exercise and diet control.
Managing obesity in dogs
The old saying, prevention is better than cure is absolutely true. As long as there is no underlying medical condition causing weight gain, you can easily bring your dog back to the path of good health via a strict regimen of diet control and regular exercise.