Why is my dog obese?
The way to a man’s heart is supposedly through his stomach, but the way to your pet’s heart is most certainly not. In fact, while most owners believe they are treating their animals with tasty morsels and gourmet meals, they are in fact doing them no favours and could instead be leading them to an early grave.
According to the BBC earlier in the year, animal obesity in the UK is reaching crisis point, as thousands of dogs, cats and rabbits face the prospect of an early death due to their weight.
A report by The PDSA and YouGov found that more than 18 million dogs, cats and rabbits are being fed a diet that is harmful to their health. Takeaway food, crisps and cakes are bad enough for humans but when fed to a pet this can lead to serious health troubles.
How big is too big?
Obesity in dogs and cats is considered to be when their weight is around 20% above their ideal bodyweight, as is the case in humans. The RSPCA define animal obesity as ‘an excess of body fat that is enough to impair health, welfare and quality of life.’
The lifespan of an obese animal can be reduced by two or three years, and they can suffer from serious health conditions including diabetes, heart disease, respiratory distress, high blood pressure and cancers.
All types of pets can be affected, and the main causes are simply over-eating or a lack of exercise. Recognising the problem is the first step to solving it.
Shockingly the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association found that eight out of ten pet owners thought their pet was the right weight, when in fact one in three was overweight.
This misperception is a huge problem in pet obesity, which must be addressed in order to prevent it.
As a dog owner you should get to know the signs of obesity. You should be able to feel your dog’s ribs and waist. When you look from above, their waist should be clearly visible.
From the side, you shouldn’t see their belly hanging down; in a healthy dog, their belly will be tucked up.
Regular exercise is extremely important, as is a balanced diet. Energy input should equal energy output and as pets have no facility to gauge when they’ve had enough, it is up to us to monitor it. Consider adjusting the amount of food with the changing seasons, for example in winter your dog may get less exercise so therefore will need less food.
You should stick to dog food rather than human food and if you are in doubt about the most suitable one, your vet should be able to recommend one to you.
It is also worth noting that some dogs are more prone to developing the condition than others. Labradors are a particularly common sufferer so it’s important you monitor their health and weigh them regularly.
Like other health issues that are hurting your pet, obesity will also hurt your finances. If you don’t have pet insurance, your vet’s bills are likely to go through the roof.
Think carefully at feeding time in future, and you’ll have a much happier dog who will survive for a lot longer.