Is Obesity In Dogs Due To Diet or Lifestyle?

Is Obesity In Dogs Due To Diet or Lifestyle?

Do Dogs Become Obese Due to Fat In Their Diet?

This is an interesting question - it seems logical that eating too much fat makes a body fat.

But fat is an essential part of a healthy diet.  

Why do dogs need fat in their diet?

Dogs need fats in their diet as a source of energy. Fats help to keep the skin and coat in good condition. Fat tastes good and encourage dogs to eat. Fat stores can also give dogs emergency energy in times of food shortages.

Fatty acids are the major part of fats. As dogs are not able to manufacture these, fats must be included in the diet. One type of fatty acids is Essential Fatty Acids, or EFAs, and as the name says, they are essential to the dogs wellbeing.

What are Essential Fatty Acids?

EFAs are necessary for the health of organs, properly functioning digestive tract, heart and ocular health and for cell regeneration in the liver.

EFAs are broken down into 2 main groups, Omega 3 and Omega 6. The ratio of these in the diet is crucial, as Omega 6 causes inflammation whilst Omega 3 reduces it – so the correct balance is very important.

The optimum ratio is 4 x Omega 6 to 1 x Omega 3. However, many commercial foods have ratios wildly in excess of this. Add to this the problem that fats in kibbles can go rancid very quickly – the kibble starts to deteriorate immediately the bag is opened – and it is a concern that many dogs eating commercially prepared foods may not be getting quality EFAs in the correct amounts.

What Causes Obesity?

Obesity is not necessarily caused by a high fat diet, usually it is just too much food – the calorific intake far outweighs the dogs energy requirements. Most owners say their dog is big, or has big bones, or is cuddly – they rarely recognise that their dog is obese. This chart is a great visual in recognising a dog at a healthy weight. 

dog body conditioning chart  - dog weight

Why are dogs overfed?

There are many reasons why a dog may be fed more than it requires.

Owners may follow the feeding instructions given on the packaging of the food, not realising that their dog is more sedentary and therefore requires fewer calories.

Some owners do not realise that in a healthy dog the ribcage can be felt; they are not aware of the “normal” range of weights for the breed of their dog.

Many people feed treats without reducing the daily food allowance to take this into account.

People may not reduce serving sizes once a dog reaches maturity.

Why is obesity a big problem?

Excess weight causes damage to joints and ligaments. An obese dog is more injury prone. The problem is circular – an obese dog finds exercise difficult, so does less, continues to eat the same amount, weighs more, finds exercise difficult, does less.......

What effects does obesity have on health?

Obesity not only puts a greater strain on joints, it also places a greater strain on the organs too. Obese dogs are at greater risk of heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes, and can suffer with lung problems, respiratory issues including tracheal collapse. This is obviously an issue in brachycelaphic breeds.

Obesity can also increase the risk of some types of cancer, and reduce life expectancy. A study by Alexander J German collected data over 20 years and found that life expectancy of obese dogs was reduced by anything from 5 months to 2.5 years.

Obese dogs are also more prone to heatstroke - an obvious issue here in Australia.

They are at greater risk of complications from anaesthesia if surgery is required.

Fatty tissue is responsible for inflammation, causing discomfort and increasing the liklihood of other diseases.

Obesity can also cause genitourinary issues including incontinence.


How Can Obesity Be Reversed?

Obesity can be tackled by diet and exercise. Initially diet will be the principal tool, as exercise is simply too much for the dog, but as the weight starts to drop, daily exercise can be incorporated to help speed weight loss.

It is important to seek the advice of a qualified canine nutritionist or veterinarian to assist with healthy weight loss. 

It may seem strange that we sell dog treats, and yet we post about obesity - undoubtedly overfeeding treats can contribute. But we are all about healthy dogs - we sell healthy treats that can be incorporated into your dogs diet, and we really want your dog to live a healthy active life. 

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