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Pet Obesity: A Major Health Threat

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Pet obesity creates health problems.

“Obesity is a physiological disorder affecting numerous body systems,” APOP report authors wrote. “Pet obesity often causes secondary, preventable diseases, including diabetes, osteoarthritis, and many forms of cancer. Professionals and the pet care industry need to educate the pet-owning public better that pet obesity is a disease with significant harmful impacts on both quality of life and life expectancy.”

According to this site, in 2022, 59% of dogs were classified as obese. 

Pet obesity has become a major problem for for dogs and owners.  When we take a dog into our lives, it becomes our job to care for them as we would any family member.  We take them to the veterinarian for checkups and necessary vaccinations.  We try to feed them healthy foods and keep them safe from harm.

Part of keeping them healthy is making sure our dogs maintain a normal weight for their breed and size.  Yet statistics show that dog obesity continues to increase each year.

Gator’s Struggles with Weight Gain

Before I learned about pet obesity, my own Weimaraner struggled with his weight.  Because of his many food allergies, Gator’s weight went up and down.  A new commercial dog food would work for awhile but soon, he would either break out in hives all over his body or develop a massive ear infection.  It seemed like we would never find a food that was safe for our big boy.

Eventually, we settled on a dry dog food with a novel protein that settled his tummy, didn’t cause a rash, and left his ears alone.  The problem came as Gator began to gain weight.

At the time, I worked as Communications Director for an animal welfare group, and one of our volunteers was a retired veterinarian.  From him I learned how to help our dog lose the excess weight.

Pet Obesity Creates a Major Health Threat

Pet Md defines obesity as an accumulation of body fat that contributes to disease.  Dogs weighing 20% more than their ideal body weight are considered obese. Obesity in dogs makes a dog more like to develop such diseases as arthritis, diabetes, pancreatitis and kidney disease. 

Is Your Dog Obese?

“Banfield Pet Hospital’s 2020 Veterinary Emerging Topics (VET) Report reveals that more than half of all adult dogs seen at Banfield’s more than 1,000 hospitals in 2019 were considered overweight or obese.”

Those are discouraging numbers for pet owners. Sometimes, it’s difficult to distinguish between Fido being pleasantly plump versus obese. If you are the least bit in doubt, discuss it with your veterinarian.

Here is a chart that shows images of dogs at various weights and explains exactly what to look for.  You can compare this information to your own pet.  If your dog is obese, it should be obvious to you.

What Causes Pet Obesity?

Researchers agree that causes of obesity in dogs are many.  Certainly, some breeds are prone to weight gain, while others are bred to be lean. Dog breeds like English Bulldogs or Pugs put on weight easily, while Greyhounds do not.  Lack of exercise plays a part with many dogs.

Improper Feeding

If you are honest with yourself, you know if and when you feed little Pudgy too much.  You know if you are sneaking him bites of your dessert or give him too many dog treats. 

Our Murphy is food-motivated.  This dog will do most anything for food.  There aren’t many edible items that he refuses, and I’m the first to admit that it is difficult to resist those pleading eyes looking up at me.  To combat this problem, we choose his treats very carefully.  Along with the occasional carrot stick to munch on, we order treats from this company, whose products we trust.

Lack of Exercise Contributes to Weight Gain

In our busy society where the adults work outside the home all day, dogs get used to laying around on sofas or soft cushions with nothing to motivate them or get them moving.  Granted, some homes have doggy doors with fenced yards so that Rover can go outside when he pleases.  But that doesn’t necessarily translate to exercise.  

Boredom sets in when dogs are left alone for long periods of time and even if they have access to a yard, they possess no motivation to get out and run.  A single walk a day isn’t enough for many dog breeds.

My husband walks Murphy 4-5 times a day.  Two of those walks are at least a mile and often 2 miles.  All together, they log 3 or more miles per day.  This helps keep our dog’s weight in check and is also healthy for Jim.

Lifestyle Modifications to Prevent Pet Obesity

If your dog shows signs of obesity, change his lifestyle. It really is that simple. First, get your veterinarian on board. He or she can advise you if your dog is healthy enough for increased exercise and can suggest exercise appropriate for his size and breed. Commit to the proper amount of walking or swimming that would help your pet.

Avoid gazing into those pleading eyes staring up at you for treats. Establish a “no snacking on people food” rule for your dog! Choose only appropriate, vet-approved treats for your fur-baby. Pretty soon, you will see your dog on the road to good health.

We solved our Weimaraner’s weight problem with the help of a veterinarian. Whenever he began to gain weight, we substituted part of each meal’s kibble for simple, canned green beans. Gator loved them and never felt deprived of food. But only do this if your veterinarian approves.

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