According to the Association of Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), 56% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese. In my professional opinion, humans are the main cause of dogs being overweight.
I see a lot of dogs every week and I can spot from a distance dogs that are overweight or underweight. Being overweight is the most common of the two. Sometimes owners are not truly aware of their dog's condition or the risks that it can carry.
A common myth is that obesity in dogs can be treated by simply reducing the quantity of the food consumed. Cutting down their current food may lead to deficiencies in essential nutrients (proteins, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids).
If your dog needs a weight loss plan consult an expert. But most of all, learn how to prevent it!
What is obesity?
Obesity is a nutritional disease which is defined by an excess of body fat. At a quantitative level, obesity is described as being 15% overweight as compared to optimal weight.
Some dog breeds are more prone to suffer from obesity depending on their fat/lean mass ratio. Also females are more affected by obesity (60% of the cases), because they have greater fat/lean ratio than males.
For example, boxers have more lean mass than labradors. Thus, even if they weigh the same they should be fed differently because higher fat mass lowers the maintenance energy requirement.
Other risk factors of obesity are age (>5 years old), neutering (neutered dogs are 2x more likely to be obese), and endocrine diseases.
However, just like with humans, the main risk factors for obesity are sedentary lifestyle and the type of food we feed. Dogs that are over nourished or lack the ability to exercise are the most at risk for becoming obese.
Uncontrolled food intake (ad libitum), energy dense and highly palatable foods, foods that are high in fat and sugar, commercial treats, snacks and table scraps contributes to obesity.
Risks of overweight
Obesity, even if your dog is only moderately obese, can result in serious adverse health effects such as reduced lifespan (up to 2.5 years).
Multiple areas of the body are affected by excess body fat, including the bones and joints, the digestive organs, and the organs responsible for breathing capacity. Obesity triggers reproductive and heart problems, reduces the immune system capacity, and lead to severe illness such as diabetes and cancer.
But... how to know when your dog is overweight?
You can have an idea of how much your dog should weigh based on their breed. However, body weight can vary depending on stature and muscular build. Each dog should be treated as an individual.
The most practical used method to diagnose obesity is the body condition score. You can assess your dog following the image at the end of this article. The ideal body score is 3. You can make a visual evaluation of your dog's body features and a palpitation.
Ribs, spine, shoulders and hip bones should be easily palpable with minimal pressure and under a thin layer of fat. The waist should be observed behind the ribs. Also, your dog should have an abdominal tuck.
Prevention and treatment of obesity
1) Feed a healthy diet, low in fat (under 15%) and low in sugar.
2) Prefer vegetable and fish fat sources, which contains essential fatty acids.
3) Choose high quality animal protein sources, like fresh chicken, beef and fish.
4) Choose a diet with the right content of fiber and moisture to promote satiety.
5) Exercise: walking, running, swimming.
6) Don't feed commercial treats and table scraps.
Disclaimer: Articles are based upon the opinions and experience of the respective author, who retains copyright as marked. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified pet health care professional and is not intended as medical advise. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of the author. We encourage you to make your own pet health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified pet health care professional.
About the author
Giselle Baba was born and raised in the Dominican Republic and adopted Dallas as her home since 2013. She is a certified Companion Animal Nutritionist from Southern Illinois University and the founder and president of Real Food For Dogs. She holds a MBA from the University of Barcelona, a Master in Marketing, a Master in Management, and a Bachelors in Advertising. She also has over 15 years of experience in business and marketing with Fortune 100 global companies.