Dog Training and Dog Care advice from UK Professionals

Canine Obesity - Reducing the weight of your dog

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Canine Obesity leads to a depressed dog
Dog obesity is a growing concern as vets are seeing more and more overweight dogs than ever before.

As in humans, dog obesity is dangerous and can shorten the dog's lifespan. Dog Obesity can cause strokes, liver, kidney and heart disease, diabetes, hip dysplasia, arthritis, pain and a massively reduced quality of life.

Carrying excess weight puts extra demands on the whole canine body structure. Dogs are considered to be obese when they weigh more than 15% over their ideal body weight according to their breed type. The health risks to an overweight dog are serious and can be life-threatening. Common medical conditions arising from obesity are:
  • Diabetes: Obesity causes an increase in the production of insulin as a response to glucose levels in the blood.
  • Joint, bone and ligament problems: One quarter of overweight dogs develop serious joint and bone disease. The increased weight load puts extra tension on joints which in turn damages the surrounding ligaments.
  • High blood pressure: Obese dogs have an increased blood pressure (hypertension) which puts a strain on the heart as it pumps harder to increase blood supply to the extra fat tissue. Often this leads to heart attacks that can be fatal to dogs of any age.
  • Respiratory problems: The lungs of overweight dogs do not function properly. The extra fat in the chest area restricts the expansion of the lungs.
  • Hepatic Lipidosis: This is a condition that occurs as a direct result of fat build up in the liver.
  • Osteoarthritis: Obesity can aggravate osteoarthritis which commonly occurs in the weight-bearing joints. Losing excess weight can help to prevent osteoarthritis or decrease the rate of progression.
  • Various Cancers: Research has shown that a dog that is fit and well exercised has a strengthened immunity to cancer and other chronic diseases. Vigorous use of the muscles stimulates all tissues and increases blood circulation. This in turn cleans the cells of toxins that may cause cancer.
  • In general: Obese dogs have a lower resistance to infection, impaired energy levels, increased skin problems, lethargy and more behavioural problems.

Recommended Dog Health Guide

People are less active today than before, with television and computer games replacing exercise and the great outdoors. This combined with the growing popularity of fast food have contributed to a rapid rise in the number of people that are medically obese in the United Kingdom and worldwide.

With the increase in obese people comes an increase in obese pets, especially overweight dogs. The couch potato sat watching television whilst eating mountains of junk food is not likely to be taking the dog for long romps in the countryside or playing ball in the local park.

A dog's activity level plays a major role in determining its caloric needs. It doesn't take a degree in rocket science to accept that the dog lying snoozing in its bed, occasionally munching on left-over pizza and chips will not need as many calories per day as a vibrant, healthy working dog or a dog that gets adequate off-lead exercise.

To see if your dog is obese check for the following:
  • While placing your thumbs on the dog's backbone spread your fingers over the ribcage. By applying a slight pressure you should be able to feel each rib. If the ribs noticeably protrude then the dog is too thin.
  • Look at the dog from side on. The underneath line should curve upwards behind the ribcage. The angle and depth of this tuck depends on the breed of dog.
  • Stand over the dog and view it from above. You should be able to see a clearly-defined waist.

How can I reduce my dog's weight?

Obese dogs suffer needlessly. Some owners mistakenly believe that to reduce the dog's weight they should just feed less food. It is not only the quantity of food that the dog eats that is the problem but more the quality of food and lack of exercise.

Cutting down on the amount of food may result in the dog lacking vital vitamins and minerals. A visit to the vet is necessary before embarking on a weight reduction programme. The dog should be weighed and given a thorough health check. Vets usually aim to reduce the dog's weight by losing 1 3% of the dog's bodyweight per week. The vet will prescribe a reduction diet that is protein rich but low in calories.

What often goes unnoticed is the amount of table scraps and treats the dog consumes per day. Leftover junk food is as harmful for dogs as it is for humans being high in fat, salt, carbohydrates, preservatives and additives. Feeding table scraps in addition to the dog's usual meal can quickly contribute to the dog becoming overweight. Of course not all scraps are unhealthy. Scraps of meat or vegetables should be fed as a part of the dog's meal rather than in addition to it.

Some owners habitually feed their dog a snack each time they consume food themselves. When questioned many owners admitted feeding their dog's tea and biscuits, bowls of cereal, cakes, sandwiches, pies and crackers. This is in addition to the dog being fed treats and rawhide chews.

One single bone-shaped treat can contain as much as 20-30 calories. Bearing in mind that an average 20lb dog needs 690 kcal per day, a handful of treats represents a substantial portion of the total daily calories.

Reward training based on using treats is adopted by the majority of dog owners. If using treats in training sessions choose ones that are healthy such as snippets of dried liver, carrot sticks or cubes of apple. Any other treats used should be taken from the dog's daily meal ration.

Veterinary Secrets Revealed

Exercise plays an important part in reducing a dog's weight.

All dogs need daily exercise be it in the form of participating in one of the canine sports, playing in the garden or long romps through the countryside. Even working dogs such as police dogs enjoy regular play times.

Exercise should include plenty of off-lead running, playing ball or catching a frisbee. However an overweight or obese dog cannot suddenly change form lazing around the home to running across fields.

Hydrotherapy sessions carried out by a trained therapist are excellent for weight loss without placing undue strain on the bones. The vet can advise the owner on an exercise regime that suits the dog to ensure that the animal is medically and mentally healthy throughout.

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