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Dog Obesity

Obesity Definition - The state of being grossly fat or overweight

 

Just like people, overweight dogs place extra demands on virtually all the organs of their bodies. When these organs are overloaded, disease and sometimes death occurs. The obesity risk factors to an overweight dog are serious and every dog owner should be aware of them. No one wants a fat dog!

Obesity and Diabetes

 

One of the most common complications of obesity in dogs is the development of dog diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes). Obesity causes an increase in the secretion of insulin in response to the increased blood glucose level in an overweight dog. Insulin is also more in demand simply because there is a greater amount of tissue. When requirements for insulin exceed the ability of the body to produce insulin, diabetes mellitus develops. If the need for insulin increases over a long period of time, the cells in the pancreas which produce insulin can fail, and again result in diabetes.

 

Dog Joints, Bones and Ligaments Damage

The statistics say that approximately 25% of overweight dogs develop serious joint problems.

The bones, joints, muscles, associated tendons and ligaments should act in unison so your dog achieves smooth and efficient movement. If they carry excess weight, they can become damaged and work inefficiently. Dog arthritis can develop and the pain and joint changes associated with hip dysplasia can become markedly more severe.

Extra pressure on joints caused by  increased weight can also lead to damage of certain ligaments. Ligaments are tough, fibrous strands of tissue that hold one bone in proximity to another bone in joints. One of the ligaments in the knee, the anterior cruciate ligament, is very common to injury. It is a very common injury with football players and other contact sports. If this ligament is torn, the knee becomes unstable and the dog will be unwilling to use it. Surgery is essential for this type of injury.

Certain breeds of dogs, such as Dachshunds are prone to develop inter vertebral disc disease ('slipped disc') due to their long spines. Carrying extra weight increases the probability that they will develop this painful and sometimes debilitating condition. Joint supplements for dogs can be a very good move if your dog starts to suffer with joint problems. Especially Glucosamine for dogs, Chondroitin for dogs and MSM for dogs.

 

 

Heart disease and increased blood pressure

Just like people, overweight dogs tend to suffer from increased blood pressure (hypertension). The heart has to work harder since it must pump additional blood to excess tissues. This can lead to congestive heart failure.

 

Difficulty breathing

In overweight animals, the lungs can not function properly. The additional fat in the chest restricts the expansion of the lungs. The extra fat in the abdomen pushes against the diaphragm, which separates the abdominal cavity from the chest. This can also result in less space in the chest for the lungs to expand. To make matters worse, the increased quantity of tissue puts an increased demand on the lungs to supply oxygen. These changes are serious for dogs who may already have a respiratory problem.

 

Decreased stamina

Dogs who are overweight generally have less endurance and stamina. Carrying all that extra weight around takes a lot of effort. The heart, muscles, and respiratory system all have to work much harder than they were meant to.

 

Heat intolerance

Fat is an excellent insulator, which is fine if you are a polar bear. But if you are an overweight dog in the heat of summer, the excess fat can make you miserable, and much less capable of regulating your body temperature.

 

Decreased liver function

The liver stores fat so when a dog is overweight, an increased amount of fat builds up in the liver. This is known as hepatic lipidosis. Decreased liver function is the result.

 

An Increased surgical and anesthetic risk

The effects of obesity on the heart and lungs have serious ramifications during anesthesia. Cardiac arrest (heart stops) and poor circulation of oxygenated blood to the tissues can happen

Many of the anesthetics are taken up by fat, so an overweight animal will take longer to come out of anesthesia because the anesthetic must be removed from the fat by the body. Also, many anesthetics are broken down by the liver. A fatty liver may not be as efficient at breaking down anesthetics and other drugs, so recovery may be far longer.

The increased fat in the tissues makes surgery more difficult. Basically, it is harder to find or get at what you are looking for. The fat obscures the surgical area.

 

Reproductive problems

Overweight dogs, just like overweight people tend to have more problems giving birth than dogs at their optimum weight. This is known as dystocia. Dogs who experience dystocia often need veterinary assistance to deliver their pups, and may require a cesarean section (C-section).

 

Digestive disorders

Overweight dogs have an increased risk of developing constipation and may have more problems with intestinal gas and flatulence, which is not very pleasant for the dog or the owner.

 

Decreased immune function

Obesity in the dog is associated with decreased resistance to viral and bacterial infections. Canine distemper and Salmonella infections, seem to be more severe in dogs who are overweight. The exact cause(s) of this lowered resistance to disease in obese dogs is unknown.

 

Skin and hair coat problems

The risk of skin and hair coat diseases are also increased in dogs who are overweight. The skin forms more and different types of oils, the skin may fold in on itself creating pockets, which are perfect for the accumulation of oils and the development of infections.

 

Obesity and cancer

The exact link between obesity and developing certain cancers is unknown. However, studies suggest that obese dogs tend to have an increased risk of developing certain types of cancers, including a particular type of cancer of the urinary bladder. A recent study also found that dogs who were obese at one year of age were at greater risk of developing mammary tumors.

 

Decreased quality and length of life

It is very obvious that the health, ability to play, even to breathe, are restrictive in overweight dogs. They may become more irritable due to being hot, in pain, or simply uncomfortable. Overweight dogs die at a younger age than those maintained at an optimum weight.

It is clear that we are not contributing positively to our dog's health when we allow them to become overweight. The next time those big brown eyes ask, 'Can I please have a biscuit?' think again.

Obesity Prevention

This can be very simple. Reduce food quantities, change your dogs diet to a more healthy option with reduced fats and increase exercise levels. It is pretty much the same as treating obesity in humans. The only difference is the diet as your dog's digestive system is very different to yours. Bear in mind that your dog will pretty much eat anything you put in front of them, so feeding them a diet of sugar, carbohydrates, fatty foods etc. will make them obese and very unhealthy. A raw meat diet is a great and natural way to help your dog to lose weight and return to their ancestral eating habits (see my blog article, Your wolf in dogs clothing. The benefits of a raw and natural diet).

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