The deadly and dangerous dog obesity disaster.
As a canine care professional and dog walker in Honiton I’m always looking to improve the lives of my canine fur friends for their owners. I look into every aspect of a dogs care and look how we can make their lives happier, healthier and better. I don’t like to push the point of obesity in dogs with owners but it is one of my all time biggest hates and ultimately my biggest challenge of talking to owners about it. I think I may of upset a couple by suggesting their dog is fat and it breaks me to tell people but I truly feel that my only crime is caring about their dog and really want to help them with it.
I really want people to come to me for advise and help with their pets as I’ve had nearly 15 years of animal care experience. I have body scored over 450 donkeys a couple of times a year and truly know the dangers of what too much weight can do to a body.
Having seen my old dog Cloe (who wasn’t over weight, just old) have a stroke I can’t state enough how devastating it is to see your best pall fall apart in front of your eyes and I urge everybody to really recognise the danger, the pain and the failure you have placed on your dog when you let them gain too much weight. Not to mention the tremendous guilt you feel when you know you have been the cause of their death.
I’m going to bombard you with some shocking statistics now purely to gain your attention, get you thinking, get you checking and ultimately getting you to take action… that’s if you need to of course.
There is a true obesity epidemic sweeping our western world pets with reports of over half of our dogs being overweight. With media coverage of overweight dogs we are starting to think that it’s the norm for a dog to be like that. It has been suggested that even vets are often wrong about a dogs weight leaning to the heavier side of normal, so if they are telling you your dog is fat, I’d listen.
The statistics for heart disease, strokes, diabetes, arthritis, joint issues, breathing problems and cancer are rising at an alarming rate with reports suggesting that a dogs life can, on average, be cut short by two and a half years.
Here’s a report from the P.D.S.A. :-
About 10% of all dogs have heart disease.
80% of dog owners think their dog is an ideal weight but didn’t know their pets weight or body score.
On average vets and vet nurses estimate that around 47% of the overweight and obese dogs they see in their practice have health issues which could be related to their weight.
The most common weight-related health issues for dogs identified by vets and vet nurses are:-
Musculoskeletal problems (99%)
Respiratory problems (49%)
Most common reasons for excess weight in dogs identified by vets and vet nurses:
Owner’s lack of recognition that their pet is overweight or has obesity (55%)
We now know that fat tissue is biologically active which means that it secretes inflammatory hormones and creates stress on the body’s tissue which contributes towards diseases. We once thought it to be inactive but we are now treating it as a chronic, low level inflammatory condition.
This is not a case of if your dog gets ill, it’s a case of when.
How can you tell if your dog is over weight.
The first problem is to recognise yourself that your dog is the not the right size, your vet can help you with this and will weigh your dog and give you a goal weight to reach. In general a dog shouldn’t carry very much weight at all, dogs are designed to be thin and research suggests that dogs are a lot more susceptible to illness, injury and
disease than a fat human.
Can you feel your dogs ribs nearly all the way to the spine without pressing? your dog should have a thin layer on the ribs with no fat pads that totally cover and prevent you from feeling them.
Is your dog flat around the spine, can you feel the spine and do they wobble side to side? Do you think you could balance a mug or a plate on their back easily? (some of this my be fur so get feeling)
Are there rolls around the legs and the base of the tail?
Is their stomach the same level as their chest?
Do they look more sausage shaped than having a defined figure?
Does the waste pinch in when you look from above, is it much smaller than the rest of them?
Can you see the last few ribs and does it pinch in after the last rib?
Do they sleep more and are more inactive?
Do they pant more in hot weather?
Are they reluctant to go for a walk sometimes and lagging behind?
Do they need help or do they have difficulty jumping in and out of the car, getting on the sofa?
Have they stopped playing and are prone to getting tired?
If you are unsure it is important to speak to your vet who will guide and teach you to recognise the signs and will put a plan in place for you.
What will happen if I don’t control my dogs weight properly?
Your dog is very likely to develop disease and injuries which will result in a lot of veterinary costs. Your dog is likely to die earlier and suffer pain with the ailments they develop if left. They will live a low quality life and can even develop behavioural problems with regards to pain.
The R.S.P.C.A. now have powers to prosecute owners that have abused their dog through over feeding and they recommend people reporting such cases so they can educate and guide owners to looking after their dog properly.
Your dog will have a much higher risk from complications from anaesthetic possibly leading to death.
Your dog is at greater risk of heat stroke when it is hot and will not be able to cool them selves effectively.
Diabetes is high on the list as high protein foods attack the pancreas which leads to the body not secreting enough insulin.
Heart disease from too much cholesterol.
Arthritis is nearly inevitable.
Cruciate ligament problems from carrying too much weight.
Breathing disorders in flat faced breeds.
There are much higher risks of cardio-respiratory disorders, hormone disorders, skin disease, cancer, urogenital disorders, tracheal collapse and laryngeal paralysis.
Medical conditions that cause weight gain in dogs include hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease. These conditions often also cause symptoms such as coat change, low energy and increased thirst, contact your vet for an appointment if you are concerned. It’s important to note that these conditions are a much rarer cause of weight gain than an exercise and diet imbalance.
What can I do to help my dog loose weight?
Your dogs weight as a true reflection on how well you are able to care for your dog. A fat dog can indicate other shortfalls in the pets care and pet health care professionals see it as a warning sign. I’m sorry to say but your fat dog maybe causing alarm bells and you as an owner might be being judged!
So if you want to get Fido as fit as a fiddle and avoid expensive, prolonged vet bills and have your dog around for longer here is what you need to do.
The first action to take is to admit that your dog might need help and get some advise from your vet. Your vet will be delighted that you are asking them to help as appose to them being the bad guy and having to tell you. You will definitely get browny points.
It’s actually really really simple to help your dog loose weight and there is no product, treat, food or magic wand that will help your dog better than just reducing the amount they eat. Yes they may drive you potty and be a total pain in the bum for a while until their stomach shrinks a bit but you are just going to all have to suck it up and be brave!
Make a record of what you are feeding your dog now, be honest with everything and include all the treats. Write a weekly plan of what you want to achieve, how much food they will be getting and how much exercise. Have a day where you measure or weigh and slightly tweak the plan to either reduce food or increase exercise. Include play times in this. Sit down with your family and include them in the plan, tell them why you need to reduce Fido’s weight and what might happen if you don’t succeed. If you have very young children you may want to crate your dog whilst it’s dinner time or get a stair gate so they don’t have access to the dropped food.
Reduce weight by a quarter at a time. your dog may stop loosing weight after a while but maybe still too big and this is because they are getting enough food for the weight they are at. To drop the weight further reduce by another quarter of what you are now feeding. You want to reduce the weight slowly and steadily otherwise if it’s too quick then your dog could get stressed and poorly.
Treats are full of fat so stay clear of the cheap supermarket rubbish and buy quality. Pigs ears, dental chews, nearly everything from Bakers, Pedigree Chum and common supermarket products are full of rubbish instead try carrots, veg and natural product. Your dog won’t care how big the treat is, they’ll just want what ever is in your hand so if you can’t resist, make it as small as possible or replace treats with fuss and attention. Scientific evidence has found that dogs brain respond better to a good fuss than it does to a bit of food, they’ll actually get more out of it.
If you are wondering what your dog can eat I have another blog all about that here, :-
I even have a blog on the canine diet challenge which will radically improve your dogs diet, here:-
Or you can talk to you pet shop about low fat treats.
Reading these you’ll know a ton more about a dogs diet and how to make it better so they don’t get fat, fight off horrible illnesses like cancer. Although a word of warning, I would just reduce for now and later introduce different things or it maybe too much for your dogs stomach to cope with.
Exercise is crucial to your dogs fitness, wellbeing and mental health and is definitely my area of expertise. Long gone are the days when a couple of half an hour boring lead walks around the same old block did the trick. Dogs need more than that, much more. A good stimulating, exciting, work filled sniffari is what your dog needs! taking their daily allowance out into the fields and natural environment will help your dog to eat in a much more natural way. Working and finding food has been a dogs way of life for thousands of years and it is only in the last few hundred years that our dogs have been pets, feeding out of a boring old bowl the same thing, day in, day out, getting fat!
You need to find out through either your vet or research for your particular dogs breed how long they should be walked for. If you need to increase do this slowly because if your dog is very fat you don’t want them to have a heart attack. Increase by 10 minute a week to help them build up.
Alternatively speak to me about our Canine Wilderness Trails where we run a forest school for dogs getting them out into nature doing all sorts of fun, action packed activities. We strengthen your training and get your dog to engage with the handler by learning commands and tricks which in turn, teaches them to be great out door dogs.
We can build the outings up as your dog gets stronger and starts to feel better and I’m very careful not to push a dog too hard in the beginning. Unfortunately I feel too much pressure to take a fat dog out on a very hot day and I will cancel, I will not take the risk of heat stroke.
I am here to guide all my customers and help them with their dogs diet and exercise and I can certainly tell you if your dogs weight is right or not. Please ask if you are not sure.
Whilst you are at home you can do more like play with your dog by scatter feeding their daily allowance to help distract them for longer, put food in biscuit balls and kongs so they have to work for it and just make it harder for them to shovel that food in as fast as they can. keeping your dog active for large parts of the day will really help but remember a dog needs 12-14 hours of rest a day.
If you need help with your dog please send me an email with a brief description or give a ring and I can definitely point you in the right direction.