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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Dog Obesity

The obesity rate in the U.S. is still growing dramatically. About one third of of american adults are indeed obese. Great news for dogs: get off the couch and walk your pooch. Canine obesity is a serious matter. If you care about dog health, read on.

There are two main actions one can take to curb obesity: Eat less, exercise more. Same exact principal applies to your canine companion. 

1. Adjust the amount of food you give your dog. 

2. Provide your dog with regular physical activities, such as walks (a couple of times a day if there is already an issue), dog hiking, dog parks… 

All dogs are susceptible to obesity, just like humans, however those that are fed high calorie diets (that includes table scraps I'm afraid), and those that do not get adequate amounts of exercise are at risk. There are some breeds, such as doxies, beagles, and labradors that are known to be predisposed. 

Fact: Obesity affects 20-40% of all American dogs
Visible Signs: visible body fat, not visible ribs, from above your dog the belly is bulging out
Clinical consequences: difficulty exercising, walking, getting up or down, difficulty berating, and canine arthritis (in other words, extra stress on the already inflamed joints)
Causes: too much food very little if any exercise
Organs affected: bones and joints, lungs, heart and potential diseases include canine diabetes
Exceptions to the rule: hypothyroidism, insulinoma, intestinal parasites, fluid in the abdomen, pregnancy

The majority of dog obesity can be easily treated at home, cutting back on your dog's caloric intake and increasing the exercise periods. If you have tried this simple solution and see no results, it is a good idea to visit your dog vet for a proper evaluation, including blood tests that can rule out hormonal and thyroid disease. The dog vet is also where you can purchase low calorie kibble, although having checked all the ingredients on those (mainly byproducts and lots of corn meal), I recommend to stay away and instead use a good quality dog food in slightly smaller portions. Some dogs love canned pumpkin, green beans, carrots . . . See if your dog likes those. I personally use all of the above including a small dollop of non fat yogurt for my barely obese senior dog. I know many people who simply cut back by a quarter of a cup per day the food intake on a larger dog and they have no problems. I use both of my suggestions: I substitute some of the reduced kibble with veggies and I cut back a little of the dogs' food. This way, my dogs never know they are on a diet! Do not ever put a dog on a crash diet. That can both shock his system and make him miserable. Long term but steady weightless is the goal. 

Table scraps and treats are generally bad for dogs, but especially bad for overweight dogs. Some dog owners also use a large portion of dog treats, disproportionate to their dog's overall daily caloric intake. Be careful with that. A treat is just a treat, not a meal. The good news for dogs is that nowadays you can find many low calorie dog treats available. You can also substitute store bought treats with boiled chicken cubes, celery with a taste of peanut butter to make it more desirable, and experiment with carrots and other safe vegetables. All our dogs are nuts about carrots. 

Two cases:
1. Our brindle chiweenie is almost two years old and she weights 9 lbs. A week ago, during her physical, the vet recommended she loses one whole pound! That is almost 10% of her body weight. How did we miss it? Because of her age. As she is still growing, she would one day look chubby and the next normal. Now that we heard the dog vet's warning, We're watching her like a hawk and monitoring her food intake more than we did in the past. 
2. Our dalmatian and german shorthaired pointer mix is slightly overweight. Since she's almost 11 years old, a senior dog, she is also suffering from dog arthritis. I have to keep her weight as low as possible.

For both these dogs, I do as I said from the start of this post: healthy diet, regular exercise, and creative low calorie dog treats. My dogs' health is of chief importance. 


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