What is Obesity?
Symptoms of Obesity in Dogs
Symptoms of obesity in dogs include:
- Weight gain
- No or little visible waistline
- No palpable ribcage
- Excess body fat
- Distended abdomen
- Lack of grooming
- Lack of mobility
- Difficulty breathing
Causes of Obesity in Dogs
The following factors can contribute to obesity in dogs:Environment
- Overfeeding – Feeding more than the pet will expend in exercise. Contributing dietary factors include table scraps, high-fat foods, number of meals, number of treats and frequent variation in diet.
- Lack of exercise – Indoor-only pets are at higher risk of obesity.
- Misconception of the canine body condition – Owner does not recognize obesity as being present.
- Age – Dogs over five years of age decrease voluntary activity and burn fewer calories daily.
- Genetic predisposition - Some breeds are predisposed to obesity, including terrier breeds, spaniels, dachshunds, beagles and Labrador retrievers.
- Neutering/spaying – Decrease in production of sex hormones decreases energy expenditure and can cause changes in satiety (increased hunger).
- Phenobarbital (anticonvulsant) can decrease satiety leading to overeating
- Glucocorticoids can lead to abnormal fat deposition and weight gain
- Hypothyroidism can contribute to weight gain
- Insulinoma can contribute to weight gain
- Hyperadrenocorticism can contribute to weight gain
Diagnosis of Obesity in Dogs
Obesity is diagnosed by measuring dogs body weight and obtaining a body condition score (BCS). At home, the easiest way to determine obesity is to follow the body condition score system. There are various methods of assigning an actual number to the BCS, but all BCS charts use the following general body condition measuring system.
Body Condition Measurements:
- Underweight: Ribs, spine and/or pelvic bones are visible from a distance
- Ideal Weight: Can feel ribs upon gentle petting. Waistline obviously thinner than upper body when viewed from above.
- Overweight: Ribs cannot be felt upon gentle petting. No difference between size of upper body and size of waist when viewed from above.
- Obese: Ribs felt only with pressure. Waistline same size or wider than upper body. Abdominal distention.
If your pet scores as overweight or obese using the above body condition measurements, you may want to visit the veterinarian to rule out any underlying causes and begin a weight management protocol. Your veterinarian will weigh your pet and obtain a body condition score. Results are then compared to breed standards (i.e. certain lean breeds such as the greyhound and most sight hounds will be at a normal weight even when ribs are visible from a distance).
Excess body weight of 10-15 percent is considered obese. In a nine point BCS scoring system, a score greater than seven is considered obese.
Treatment of Obesity in Dogs
Treatment of obesity in dogs focuses on weight loss followed by maintenance of a healthy weight for life. As in humans, a decrease in caloric intake and increase in exercise is the healthy way to produce weight loss. Your veterinarian will provide recommendations on portion sizes, feeding times, treat frequency, proper foods, and exercise options.
High-protein, low-fat foods produce optimal weight loss as protein and fiber stimulate metabolism and increase satiety. Eliminating table scraps and treats is important. Feeding green beans and other vegetables is a good alternative to treats. There are a wide variety of commercial and prescription dog foods available in both canned and kibble that are formulated for weight loss and maintenance. Homemade diets are not recommended as they often lack in daily vitamin and mineral requirements.
Exercise is as important as diet in reaching and maintaining a healthy body weight. There are a variety of options for exercise including thirty minutes per day of leash walking (you can break this up into 10 minute increments), outdoor games, treadmill training and swimming (dog spas have pools and treadmills for exercise). Taking your pet for an afternoon at a dog day care two to three times a week can induce playtime and exercise.
If you dog eats too fast, a special bowl that requires the pet to work to get each piece of food is available at most pet stores. Another good tool is a treat ball that dispenses treats only if your dog rolls it around (increasing exercise). Dog training is a fun way for both owner and pet to get exercise, but try rewarding your pet with green beans rather than high calorie treats.
Dietary changes must be made gradually to avoid upsetting the gastrointestinal tract. Unless your veterinarian instructs otherwise, once a new food is purchased, mix half of the new food with half of the old food and feed this mixture for 7 days. Thereafter, you can safely feed the new food only.
Recovery of Obesity in Dogs
Once your pet begins a weight management protocol, body weight should be checked monthly to confirm that the protocol is working. Most veterinary clinics offer free use of their scales to weight pets with no appointment necessary. Adjustments to the exercise and diet protocol may be needed as weight changes occur.
Be sure that dietary changes are explained to family and friends clearly to keep the pet free from exposure to table scraps or disposed food. A weight management protocol that is carefully followed is effective and safe. Once a healthy weight is achieved, a maintenance diet and exercise schedule should be followed for the life of the pet.
Obesity Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
my dog got neutering done a week back and is now alright. We have to go to the vet and get the stitches removed to tomorrow. But ever since his surgery was done he has started to become very hungry. He used to eat alot before the surgery too but after the surgery it has become impossible to control his hunger. He demands for food all the time and has to go to poop all the time. Just today morning he pooped three times. His hunger is getting out of hand now and I'm afraid he has obesity.
An increase in hunger and a reduction in activity after neutering may lead to a gain in weight; this can be adjusted by altering his diet to a lower calorie diet or a weight loss diet that will allow you to adjust his weight. These options can be discussed with your Veterinarian when you get the stitches out. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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