Risk factors include increased age, spaying/neutering and inactivity. These breeds are most at risk:
- Labrador Retrievers
- Cairn Terriers
- Cocker Spaniels
- Basset Hounds
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
There are three major causes of dog obesity: overeating, lack of exercise and underlying hormonal or other diseases.
- When more energy is eaten than used, the extra is stored as fat. In general, dogs are instinctively greedy, scavenging and gorging on food at any given opportunity.
- It cannot all be blamed on the dog’s nature though, as pet parents are also very often responsible. We receive pleasure from feeding our dogs treats or find it amusing to watch them eat “human” food, but we don’t recognize that our dogs are overweight until we take them to the vet for different reason and are then informed of the weight problem.
- Perception of weight is a subjective and relative issue. For example, if you compare an overweight greyhound to a normal golden retriever, it is going to appear underweight because of the general slimline shape of greyhounds. Another reason dogs may be overweight is the social stigma of having a thin-looking dog, with perception being that pet parents are mistreating their dogs by not feeding them enough.
- Many pet parents of obese dogs are overweight themselves. This poses an often challenging issue for the veterinarian when broaching the problem.
These are some of the signs that your dog may be too heavy:
- Excessive weight gain
- Excessive fat deposits over the trunk
- Loss of shape and waist definition
- Enlarged abdomen
- Difficulty walking
- Difficulty breathing
- Low tolerance to heat
- Laziness and reluctance to exercise
To determine if your dog is overweight or obese, your vet may do the following:
- Ask you about your dog’s medical history and review changes to his body weight over time
- Perform a physical examination, including a body conditioning score
- If an underlying disease is suspected, further tests may be performed, such as blood tests to check for diabetes, hyperadrenocorticism, low thyroid hormone, etc.
- Take X-rays and/or an ultrasound to look for pregnancy, fluid retention, tumors, arthritis, lung disease, etc.
- Feed your dog fewer calories.
- Exercise your dog more.
- Treatment can also involve assessment of the dog’s daily intake of all food. This includes meals, treats, snacks and table foods. Pet parents can be quite embarrassed to realize the amount of snacks they feed their dogs! A change to food that is lower in calories and higher in fiber may help.
- Prescription medication such as Slentrol (Pfizer) may be used to reduce the amount of fat absorbed and trigger the feeling of fullness, but side effects such as loose stools, diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy and loss of appetite may occur.
- Do not overfeed your dog – your entire family must be strict and consistent.
- Closely monitor your dog’s weight and body condition.
- Regularly exercise your dog.