By Dr Jeannie Thomason (Part 1 in a two part series on dog obesity.)
Obesity is one of the common diseases of Older (Senior, Geriatric) dogs. Fortunately, it is not only preventable but with commitment on the part of the dog owner, it is reversible as well. It’s often difficult for pet owners to recognize that their dogs are in fact overweight and not just well fed and happy. One reason we don't often notice obesity in our pets is because of our perception of obesity in ourselves as humans.
By human standards, an obese person is someone significantly over-weight, not just someone who has gone up one size in their pants. However, with our dogs, the term obese is used for pets with any excessive accumulation of fat in the stomach and the waist. An animal that is 15-20% overweight is considered obese. As in humans, an obese animal is not healthy and is highly vulnerable to many types of health problems The metabolism of an overweight pet can no longer support a healthy heart, joints (over 40% of older dogs have joint problems), liver, lungs or normal blood sugar.
Obese dogs have less heat intolerance and are often poor candidates for surgery should it be needed. Why Our Dogs Gain Weight Puppies burn more calories than adults because they are using every last drop of nutrients to build their bodies. Spayed and neutered animals use less enegry/burn less calories as intact animals do since the heart does not have to pump blood to the reproductive organs anymore.
Mature animals, neutered animals do not require as much food/calories so cutting back a bit on the daily meals alone can be of help in keeping off the extra weight. As our animals grow older, we must make a concerted effort to make sure they are still getting ample exercise. So much the case today, many families have both adults working most of the day so our dogs are left home alone to lounge around and nap. In the wild, dogs have to work and exert energy to catch their food, thus keeping in balance the consumption and the burning of calories. However, our dogs don't have to do much to get food. Therefore, they run the risk of consuming more calories than they're burning, which just like in humans, leads to gradual weight gain.
Furthermore, dogs are genetically made to save fat for energy. When wolves' feeding behavior has been studied, it has been found that that wolves don't always eat daily in fact rarely do they eat daily. They don't need to eat daily because their physiology is such that extra nutrients are converted to fat to be used later. Our dogs are descendants of wolves and/or other wild canids. What is happening with our pet dogs is that in short, we are feeding our pets too much food and they are getting very little to no real exercise to balance things out. Their bodies just keep storing more and more fat until obesity becomes a reality.
Feeding The Wrong Foods The multi-billion dollar pet food industry has done harm to our dog’s health and made billions of dollars off uneducated pet owners who only want the very best for their dogs. *This is another article in its self so I’ll keep it brief and say here and now that processed, commercial pet food is killing our pets. It is not just the poor quality, cheap foods either because it really does not matter what quality ingredients you begin with, it all ends up the same way – dead, no nutritive value. Then, since there truly is no nutrition left in the end product, synthetic vitamins are sprayed on the to diets just prior to sealing the bags. These synthetic vitamins are not molecularly/nutritionally equal to the natural source vitamins found in raw food sources nor are they readily absorbed by the dog’s body.* Please read my article: Kibble is kibble is still kibble for more information.
When our dogs are fed processed/over-cooked foods that their digestive systems were never designed to eat/digest in the first place is that the body is forced to raid its own dwindling supply of nutrient reserves and enzymes which in turn, causes the body to remain hungry for true, quality nutrients. This of course, leads to hunger pangs for the dog even though the stomach is full. The result is chronic hunger and begging for more food. This leads to chronic overeating and of course the excessive weight and the rampant obesity seen in our dogs today. Stay tuned for Part 2: Health Risks Associated With Obesity
About Dr. Jeannie Thomason: Dr. Jeannie Thomason, Veterinary naturopath, certified small animal nutritionist, is co-host of the popular online radio show, Animal Talk Naturally. Her articles have been featured in various publications such as Animal Wellness, Dog Fancy, Coast 2 Coast (national breed magazine for the Boston Terrier) and Natural Horse magazine. She is available for consultations on natural canine care & nutrition at her Website – The Whole Dog . Copyright ©2009. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the Author. This article is for educational purposes only. The decision to use, or not to use, any information is the sole responsibility of the reader.