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Being overweight or obese is just as hazardous for dogs as it is for humans. Additional layers of fat on the organs can interfere with their functioning, and the extra weight can add stress to the bones and joints. Your veterinarian may advise on a weight reduction regimen if your canine is experiencing health issues related to obesity or extra weight.
An overweight canine is susceptible to disease, skeletal stress, and systemic changes due to the extra poundage carried on the body.
Dogs come in many shapes and sizes and certain breeds are more likely to have a wider girth than others. There are three components besides weight itself to determining if your pet is obese or overweight include touch, the view from above, and the view from the side. When you palpate the rib area you should be able to easily feel the ribs padded by a small layer of tissue. If the ribs are difficult to detect, this is a clue that the dog has more fat than it needs. From above, the bones of the spine should not be visible, and the dog should show a visible but not prominent waistline. From the side the abdomen should appear slightly pulled up, a condition called abdominal tuck.
Dogs typically experience many of the same obesity related disturbances that we do. As excess fat gathers on the canine body, it adds stress to the bones and joints as well as crowding the organs, thereby reducing their efficiency. Some of the health risks that are caused by being overweight or obese can include:
Diseases - Endocrine disorders such as Cushing’s Disease and hypothyroidism, as well as metabolic disorders like diabetes can cause weight gain
Lack of Exercise and Overeating - Although either of these circumstances can cause obesity on their own, they are usually seen in conjunction with one another; some dogs require more exercise than others due to changes in metabolism that can be caused by medical procedures like spaying or neutering, by differences in breed, or by the natural aging processes
Stress - Dogs that experience chronic stress and anxiety in their lives have a tendency to stress eat and may devour more food than they require; stress is also a contributor to increased levels of cortisol, and when cortisol levels are amplified for too long, it can cause reduced calorie expenditure and wasting of the muscles
A thorough physical examination is generally sufficient to diagnose the canine as either overweight or obese, so any diagnostic tests are typically focused on determining why the animal is accumulating an overabundance of fat. The examining doctor will want information regarding the animal’s daily diet and exercise routine and how many and what type of treats are used for your dog in order to determine how much influence that has on the condition.
Standard diagnostic tests, such as a biochemical profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis will help to determine if there are any underlying illnesses that may be contributing to the additional weight gain. These tests will help to uncover serious disorders such as Cushing’s disease and diabetes, as well as helping the examiner to evaluate the function of the liver and kidneys. The veterinarian may also request additional tests such as tests to check the thyroxine concentrations in the blood to investigate the presence of a thyroid disorder as these can cause fluctuations in weight.
The treatment for dogs that are overweight or obese will vary somewhat from individual to individual. If the dog in question has disorders such a thyroid disease, diabetes, or Cushing’s disease medication may be prescribed. Many of these conditions require lifelong medications to manage. If your pet has recently started taking new medications, these drugs may also require replacement or adjustment.
Once any underlying disorders or diseases have been addressed then overweight and obese canines will need to change both their exercise routine and their diet to reverse the situation. This includes reevaluating the animal’s daily diet and exercise regimen on a regular basis in order to adjust for things like hormonal changes due to neutering or spaying, advancing age, changes in the seasons, and other factors that can influence changes in metabolism. Your veterinarian should be able to assist you in designing an effective program of exercise and healthy food for your particular circumstances.
Dogs who are even moderately overweight tend to have a life expectancy that is roughly two years less than their slimmer counterparts. Some tips to help your dog keep his weight down include:
Adjust the feeding schedule - Feeding your dog smaller meals on a more frequent basis may help encourage fat loss
Keep track - Try keeping your dog on a schedule with specific amounts of food, or keep a food diary for your pet to see where extra calories may be coming in
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