Obesity — Is My Dog Fat or Just at the Top of His Weight Class?

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The following is an excerpt from Petfinder.com’s The Adopted Dog Bible

dog obesity and weight loss

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The statistics are sobering: Approximately 25 to 40 percent of adult dogs are overweight or obese. Obesity is associated with conditions such as heart disease, impaired breathing, decreased liver functions, diabetes, musculoskeletal diseases, respiratory problems, gastrointestinal disorders, and increased stress on bones, joints, and tendons.

A study conducted by Nestle Purina Pet care in 2004 found that dogs who maintained ideal body weights throughout their lives had a median life span of 15 percent longer than dogs who were consistently overweight (almost two years for the Labrador Retrievers in the study). Potentially gaining up to two more years with our canine buddies is a strong incentive to keep them in shape.

As with humans, dogs will gain weight if they consume more calories than they burn. And as with human food, the lower the caloric density of a given dog food, the healthier it will be, and the more it will help your dog lose weight.

Although pet food companies are not currently required to list the caloric density of their food on the container, most companies have this information on their website.

The causes of obesity generally fall into three categories: genetic predisposition, hormonal disorders, and an inappropriate diet and sedentary lifestyle. Certain breeds (such as Beagles, Basset Hounds, Dachshunds, and Labrador Retrievers) pack on the pounds more easily than others.

Thyroid or pituitary gland dysfunction affects hormone balance in the body and may contribute to the development of obesity. Talk to your vet if you have concerns about either of these causes.

Inappropriate diet and sedentary lifestyle is by far the most common reason for obesity in dogs. A dog cannot decide to cut calories or hit the gym; it is our responsibility to make sure that our dogs don’t become obese due to too many table scraps and not enough long walks.

If your adopted dog is overweight when you get him, you’ll need to do some maintenance work to get him to a more manageable size. If you notice that your once-svelte pooch has started to expand, you need to change your habits (and by extension, his).

Reducing the amount of food he eats will obviously help, but don’t forget about exercise. Unlike many of us, dogs don’t view exercise as punishment; they think it’s fun.

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