Canine Obesity:
The Signs, Risks, and Causes
By B.R. Stewart
Nearly 50% of dogs in the US are overweight
or obese.

Of these dog's owners, 30% consider their
pet's weight to be normal.

Canine obesity is one of the fastest growing
pet health concerns in the US and is also one
of the most preventable pet diseases. The first
step to remedying obesity is, of course, recognizing
there is a problem.

How to Tell If Your Dog Is Overweight
Does your dog's tummy sag? Is his back broad and flat? Is it hard to judge if he even has a waist? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should be concerned.

When your dog is at his ideal weight:
  • You should be able to feel his ribs without pressing your fingers into tissue.
  • He should have an indentation at his waist when viewed from above.
  • His belly should be tucked up.
Purina has an excellent diagram showing what to look for.

If you're not comfortable making this assessment, talk to your veterinarian. They can determine if your dog is overweight and also provide a goal weight.

What Are the Risks?
Experts have shown that being even moderately overweight can reduce your dog's life expectancy by nearly two years. As few as five pounds over your dog's ideal weight can aggravate existing health issues and put him at risk for developing these serious medical conditions:
  • High blood pressure
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Heart, kidney, and respiratory disease
  • Decreased liver function
  • Diabetes
  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Skin and coat problems
  • Difficulty breathing, decreased stamina, less endurance, heat intolerance
  • Overall decreased life expectancy and quality of life
The Causes of Pet Obesity
There are many factors which contribute to canine obesity, but the majority of cases can be boiled down to overfeeding.
  • Disease - Certain diseases such as hypothyroidism, hypoadrenocorticism, and insulinoma can all lead to obesity. A veterinarian can rule these out for you.
  • Breed - Certain breeds are genetically predisposed to obesity: Cairn Terriers, Scottish Terriers, Beagles, Dachshunds, Shetland Sheepdogs, Basset Hounds, Cocker Spaniels, Labrador Retrievers, etc.
  • Age - As your dog ages, his metabolic rate begins to decrease. If his food intake remains the same, weight gain is inevitable.
  • Neutering - The loss of circulating sex hormones can also slow your dog's metabolism.
  • Lack of Exercise - If your dog isn't burning calories, he's storing calories. Daily exercise is necessary for maintaining his well-being.
  • Nutrition - Poor quality dog food, table scraps, and excessive treats can all lead to obesity.
In Summary. . .
Canine obesity is both common and, in most cases, completely avoidable. You can add up to two years to your dog's life expectancy by carefully managing his food intake and encouraging proper exercise.

Treats are not the best way to show your dog how much you appreciate his devotion. Taking walks around the neighborhood and playing fetch are much healthier rewards for him!
     An extra 5 pounds . . .
  • On a 12 lb dog (Shih Tzu) is equivalent to 58 lb on a 140 lb woman.
  • On a 24 lb dog (Beagle) is equivalent to 28 lb on a 140 lb woman
  • On a 70 lb dog (Lab) is equivalent to 10 lb on a 140 lb woman.
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