Tipping the Scales
Obesity is defined as the excessive accumulation of body fat and recent studies suggest that 25-40% of dogs are or will become obese during their lifetime! This worrying statistic is unfortunately reflected by our experience as veterinary surgeons in general practice.
Obesity is a major problem in dogs and can have long-term consequences on their health. Obese pets are more likely to suffer from conditions such as arthritis, breathing difficulties, heart problems and diabetes. Unfortunately, obesity is a vicious cycle as once a pet is overweight; their physical activity is also likely to drop making it harder to lose weight. There are a number of factors that contribute to obesity:
The primary causes of obesity are over eating but it’s never quite that simple. The elderly dog spending his day sleeping in front of the fire clearly has a different requirement to the working dog. Some dogs will ‘self-regulate’ but most will eat to excess and table scraps have a vastly higher calorific content than regular dog foods.
Activity levels play a major role in determining the caloric needs of a dog and thus his tendency
to become overweight.
Despite the numerous benefits of neutering, there is no doubt neutering lowers dogs’ metabolic rate so they require fewer calories than un-neutered dogs.
Some breeds are simply more prone to weight gain and owners of these breeds (such as Labrador Retrievers, Dachshunds, Beagles, Collies, Shelties, and Basset Hounds) should be especially vigilant in monitoring their dogs’ weight.
Some nutritionists feel dogs may overeat simply because they are bored and may not get into the rubbish bin because they are hungry, but because they need something to do - the food they find is just a bonus.
Various medications can influence metabolism and appetite. These include glucocorticoids or steroids such as prednisolone and barbiturates such as phenobarbital which is used to
Illnesses such as Hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease can predispose animals to weight gain and in certain breeds need eliminating with blood tests prior to weight control programmes.
Whether the obesity is due to simple over feeding or a result of a disease process, ultimately we, as owners are responsible for maintaining ideal bodyweight or seeking help to achieve this.
At our surgery in Yeovil, qualified nurses run a weight loss programme for pets, affectionately known as ‘The Pudding Club’. This is tailored to individuals and allows us to select the correct diet, fed in the right amount along with an appropriate exercise plan to help tip those scales back in the right direction.