- According to pet insurer Nationwide, over 1.3 million policy holders filed claims for obesity-related diseases in pets in 2016.
- The pet obesity epidemic continues unabated, as does the number of overweight pets acquiring painful, debilitating diseases as a result.
- Some pet owners don’t realize their dog is overweight because fat pets have become the new normal, and many vets do not address excess pounds during veterinary visits.
- To successfully take weight off your dog and keep it off, consistent daily aerobic exercise is essential.
- Another essential ingredient is what and how much you feed your dog; the key is to meet all his nutritional requirements with a species-appropriate diet while simultaneously reducing the amount he is fed.
By Dr Becker
Sadly, I’ve lost count of how many years now pet obesity has been on the rise, along with all the disorders that inevitably result when animals are overfed and under-exercised. According to pet insurer Nationwide, in 2016 over 1.3 million pet owner claims totaling more than $60 million were submitted for obesity-related diseases, which equates to a 23 percent increase in just 3 years.1 Per Nationwide, the top 10 obesity-related diseases in dogs last year were:
- Cystitis/urinary tract disease
- Cruciate ligament injuries
- Intervertebral disc disease
- Chronic renal disease
- Congestive heart failure
Obesity-related diseases are entirely preventable, and yet they continue to increase in dogs year after year. Most of them shorten an already too-short lifespan and often destroy the animal’s quality of life along the way.
As a proactive wellness veterinarian, it’s incredibly frustrating to me to see so many dogs these days being overfed and under-exercised to the point of developing one or more potentially devastating diseases. Especially when it’s so easy to keep them at a healthy weight and in good physical condition.
Is Your Dog Overweight? Here’s How to Tell
One of the problems pet obesity experts have uncovered is that unfortunately, overweight dogs have become the “new normal” and as a result, many people can’t tell the difference between a fat dog and a normal-sized dog.
If you’re not sure about your own pet, look down at her from above. You should be able to see a tapered-in waist. If she’s oval-shaped, she’s probably too heavy. You should also be able to feel (but not see) her ribs as well as the bones near the base of her tail. If she’s obese, you’ll see noticeable amounts of excess fat on her abdomen, hips and neck. Also have a look at this body condition chart provided by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP):
Your goal for your dog should be a body condition score of 3. Unfortunately, many owners assume their pet’s body score is just fine because their veterinarian never mentions their pet has a weight issue during exams. Veterinarians fail to address extra pounds for many reasons, including because it can be an uncomfortable conversation.
I’ve had countless pet parents tell me I was the first vet to comment that their dog needed to lose a few pounds, which tells me vets are not adequately addressing the slow but consistent weight gain that occurs over time with many dogs and contributes to so many degenerative diseases that could be avoided with appropriate weight management.
All Dogs, Especially Fat Ones, MUST Get Daily Exercise
Consistent daily exercise, including at least 20 minutes (and preferably 60) of aerobic activity will help your dog burn fat and increase muscle tone. If you’re unable to provide him with this much physical activity (and some dogs require even more), consider joining a pet sports club or doggy daycare. Another option is to hire a dog walker (or dog jogger, hiker or biker), although exercising your own dog gets YOU moving, too.
If your dog is very overweight or obese, he may not be able to endure extended periods of exercise initially. Swimming is actually an excellent low-impact, gentle form of exercise for dogs that need to start out slow, as well as those with arthritis or mobility issues. Ask your veterinarian what exercises are safe for your dog to do, and which you either need to avoid or put off until he’s in better condition.
A Balanced Diet For Weight Loss
There is an extremely wide variety of weight loss foods on the market these days. We would recommend the following: