Obesity in Dogs
It is estimated that 40% of pets in America are overweight. Further, approximately 25% of dogs in the United States are obese. It is very important that we take responsibility for our pets. If a pet is overweight, it is almost certainly the owner's fault. There are certain medical conditions that can cause weight gain. This article is not about that. If you suspect your pet's condition is a medical problem, PLEASE SEE YOUR VET!
Let's start today by busting a long held myth that spaying or neutering your pet will cause him or her to gain weight. This simply isn't true. There is no scientific basis for it. It is true that the surgery may slow the metabolism to some extent causing the pet to burn calories more slowly and therefore to require less “fuel” for the energy he/she expends. However, the truth of the matter is, the surgery doesn't cause the weight gain; the weight gain is always caused by eating too much and not getting enough exercise – just like most Americans of the two-legged variety.
Despite every appearance, your dog is not human. Dogs are scavengers by nature and always believe that each meal might be their last or at least their last for a while. Dogs do not normally eat several small meals a day as we do. Dogs prefer to eat one or two large meals a day and then to rest after.
Overweight dogs are more susceptible to certain health problems, just as we are. Some of the more common major concerns are:
- Arthritis and other joint problems
- Heart Disease
- Respiratory Ailments
- Numerous others caused by increased stress on the Heart, Lungs, Liver, Kidneys and Joints
Overweight dogs sleep more and exercise less. Just as with humans, this affects the whole system. The body can't fight off infections as well and life expectancy is shortened.
Some Tips To Help You Avoid Over-Feeding Your Dog:
Don't leave food out for your pet to nibble on all day. Set a schedule and keep to it. Usually 1 or 2 good meals a day is plenty. Leave plenty of water especially if it is hot.
Don't make your dog eat if he doesn't want to. It is the dog food companies, advertisers and marketers that have led us to believe that all dogs must eat every day and will eat voraciously and vigorously each meal.
Food (including treats) is no substitute for attention nor is it a cure for guilt. Spend time with your pet nothing else can replace that.
A walk around the block may benefit your health as well as “Fluffy's”.
If you just feel like you are starving your dog and can't live with yourself, cut back on the kibble and add a cup of green beans (right out of the can). The dog will love it; they are healthy and add almost no calories or fat.
If “Fido” gets an extra treat (or 2) or some leftovers from dinner, be sure to cut back on the daily ration of his own food.
Most “Reduced Calorie” pet foods have restricted fat levels to reduce calories. This causes an increase in carbohydrate percentages which stimulates insulin secretion which tells the body to store unused calories as fat. In short, many “Reduced Calorie” foods can actually cause weight gain.
Your dog's diet should be meat-based and high in protein and fat and low in carbohydrates. (We proudly sell Natural Balance pet foods.)
When choosing a food, look on the list of ingredients; the first ingredient on the list should be meat not corn.
It's All in the Genes
Some breeds are more predisposed to weight gain. Some examples are:
- Basset Hounds
- Cairn Terriers
- Cavalier king Charles Spaniels
- Cocker Spaniels
- Labrador Retrievers
- Shetland Sheepdogs
Remember, just as with humans, it is much easier to prevent weight gain than it is to lose excess weight. This is particularly true in older dogs (and people) when it becomes harder to exercise.
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This article first appeared at www.jefferspetblog.com on Monday, September 24th, 2007.
Information given here is meant to be helpful and/or educational. It is, in no way, intended to supersede, challenge or supplant the diagnosis, treatment or advice of a licensed veterinarian.