Obesity is becoming a very serious health crisis for dogs in the US. According to the Association For Pet Obesity Prevention’s 2016 survey, over 50% of dogs and cats are obese. Pets being overfed, getting too many high calorie treats, and not getting enough exercise are common factors in the dog obesity epidemic.
Many dog owners don’t think it’s a big deal if their pooch has a bit of a belly or puts on a little weight. But, excess body fat can cause major health problems in dogs – the same way it can cause major health problems for humans. When dogs eat too much and don’t get enough exercise, they can quickly become obese.
Obesity is especially a problem for small and toy breeds because their energy requirements are low compared to large sized dogs. For small dogs, just a few extra calories per day can quickly add up. Small dogs, especially those with short noses (brachycephalic), can develop respiratory and heart problems from carrying extra weight.
The internet may have also contributed to the pet obesity problem by promoting the image of chubby dogs as cute or adorable. Many of the most popular dog accounts on Instagram and other social media show dogs that are overweight or obese. While chubby dogs are adorable, owners need to be aware that by letting their dogs become obese, they could be shortening the lifespan of their beloved pet and increasing their canine companion’s risk of serious health problems.
It’s time for pet owners to put down the treats and stop overfeeding our dogs. If you don’t, your dog could be at risk of many health problems. According to research and veterinarians, these are some of the most serious dangers of dog obesity:
Dogs that carry extra weight are at high risk for developing breathing problems like shortness of breath and sleep apnea, according to PetMD. Extra fat in the chest can make it more difficult for the dog’s lungs to expand. That means that he can’t take deep breaths and may not be getting the oxygen he needs to stay healthy. This can cause sleeping problems as well as wheezing or other problems that make it difficult for dogs to walk or run.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is also called hypertension, and it can be fatal for obese dogs. The heart must work even harder to pump oxygen-rich blood throughout the dog’s body when he is obese. That extra work can lead to congestive heart failure, which is fatal if it’s left untreated.
Diabetes has become a major health problem in dogs. Many experts say that the large increase in the number of dogs who are obese is linked to the growing number of dogs with diabetes. Just like in humans, being obese substantially raises the possibility of the dog developing diabetes. Diabetes can be difficult to manage in dogs and often ends up causing other illnesses that may be fatal.
All of the organs and systems in the body have to work much harder in dogs that are obese. But, fatty liver disease can cause the dog’s overworked liver to stop purifying his body and getting rid of toxins. When the liver isn’t working right, there are a number of health problems that can happen as a result – some of which are not treatable and can lead to death.
Joint problems are common in obese dogs. Arthritis can become a painful problem, especially in small dogs who carry a lot of extra weight. Dogs with arthritis have painful swollen joints that can make even a regular walk uncomfortable or painful.
Supplements can help minimize the pain of arthritis, and some medications can help get rid of inflammation in the joints. But, ultimately the only way to reduce the pain of arthritis, and help prevent it from developing in the first place, is for the dog to lose weight.
Compromised Immune Function
Dogs that are obese may be more susceptible to viral and bacterial illnesses and may not recover from infections as quickly as dogs that are fit and lean. That’s because their immune systems don’t work as well as they should. These illnesses are rarely serious on their own, but over time they can cause even more damage to the dog’s immune system. They can also be expensive to treat because they often require prescription medication.
Increased Cancer Risks
Probably one of the most serious health problems that can be caused by obesity in dogs is cancer. Being obese increases a dog’s chance of developing certain cancers. In breeds like retrievers (which are already prone to developing tumors and cysts), being obese raises the chance that those tumors will be malignant.
What can you do to help Fido slim down?
The serious health problems listed above aren’t the only dangers of canine obesity. While these conditions do occur in a high number of overweight dogs, there are also some concerns that affect EVERY overweight canine. Lack of stamina, intolerance to hot temperatures and an increased risk of surgical complications are just a few.
The best thing that you can do is provide a high-quality diet served in the proper portions. Most dogs are overweight simply due to overfeeding, so it’s best to consult your veterinarian about the correct portion size for your dog. It’s also important to be able to identify if your pet is at an ideal body weight. A body score chart can help with this. And, try to stay away from excessive treat feeding! Add in a couple of daily walks and other regular exercise sessions, and your pet should have no trouble sticking to his optimum weight.
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- Carrie and Cliff