Overweight and obesity are massive health problems for our dogs. Not only is their quality of life and life expectancy significantly impaired, but the risk of diseases such as heart problems, diabetes or joint pain also increases. You can find out how to tell if your dog is overweight in this article.
When is My Dog Overweight?
Mostly one orientates oneself with the assessment of the ideal weight on the breed standard. This is not always possible, especially with hybrid breeds. With these, it can help to use the body weight at the end of the first year of life as a basis.
If the body weight is 5 to 20 percent above the ideal weight, it is overweight. A dog suffers from obesity if it is 20 percent or more above its normal weight.
How Do I Know if My Dog is Weighing Too Much?
On the one hand, of course, by weighing your dog regularly. If the scales show a higher weight each time, it is very likely that your dog is slowly getting thicker. An exception to this is at most young dogs in growth.
The most frequently used and probably the most objective method for an initial assessment is the assessment of the nutritional status using the Body Condition Score (BCS; or Body Condition Index). This is based on the visual assessment and palpation of the body fat on the chest, waist and spine. Based on the observations, the dog is then classified in one of nine BCS classes.
In general, a dog is considered too fat when the ribs can no longer be felt and the waist can no longer be seen. When viewed from the side, the lower belly line should also ascend from the ribs to the hips and not (almost) parallel to the floor. Fat pads at the base of the tail are another sign of an overweight dog.
How Does My Dog Get Overweight?
Often the path to later obesity begins as early as a dog’s puppy age. Because a diet that is too high in energy creates a greater number of fat cells than with normally fed puppies . This number cannot be changed later, so that there is a higher risk of obesity in adulthood.
But of course this is not the only cause of an overweight dog.
Increased Energy Intake
The most common cause of weight gain is too much energy. This excess energy is difficult to compensate for through exercise, as the dog only uses around ten percent of its daily energy for locomotion.
Possible causes for the energy surplus are often too much feed, ad libitum feeding (unrestricted access to feed) or sometimes too high an energy density in the feed (too many calories calculated on the portion).
Unfortunately, when feeding, some keepers often forget that treats also contain a lot of calories and must therefore be taken into account in the daily ration. The well-intentioned chew in the evening can lead to an overweight dog in the long term.
Dog owners always have to take the size of the dog into account: for a dog weighing 25 kilograms, a dried pig’s ear covers, for example, 20 percent of the daily energy requirement. For a dog weighing ten kilograms, the same ear means 40 percent of the total daily amount of calories.
High fat food, especially when fed with food from the table, also leads to long-term weight gain. Fat contains more than twice as much energy as proteins or carbohydrates. This quickly leads to a dog becoming overweight.
Low Energy Consumption
In addition to excessive energy intake, there are other reasons why a dog needs less energy than other dogs of his age and breed.
On a neutered dog, for example, tends to have an increased appetite, less physical activity and a change in body fat percentage / body composition. This reduces a dog’s energy requirements by thirty percent after neutering. If the amount of food is not reduced, neutered dogs are twice as likely to become overweight.
In addition, some breeds are more likely to gain weight when fed the same amount of energy as other breeds. The Labrador Retriever and the English Cocker Spaniels are genetically predisposed to an increased body fat percentage. Because fat uses less energy than muscle mass, these breeds need to be fed fewer calories.
A dog with long fur is less likely to freeze than a dog with a very short coat and no undercoat. The former therefore has a lower energy requirement than a dog that lives in a warm environment. In addition, the daily exercise, the age and the individual character of the individual dog (“rubber ball” vs. “bed rugs”) must be taken into account for the dog’s daily energy requirements.
Dog Overweight: Diseases as a Cause
In addition to all of the environmental and owner-influenced causes, illnesses can also be the reason your dog is overweight. So please clarify with the Veterinarian to see if there is a possible disease.
- An Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) means that too few thyroid hormones are produced. These are responsible for the cell function and thus the metabolism of the dog. The lack of or insufficient hormones means that the cells work too slowly and no longer consume as much energy. In addition, sick dogs often become sluggish and move significantly less. The dog increases in weight with the same amount of food.
- A condition that often makes a dog look fat is Cushing’s disease (hyperadrenocorticism) , a disease of the adrenal cortex. In this condition, the adrenal gland constantly produces too much cortisol. This leads to an increased appetite, at the same time the dogs become reluctant to move and become sluggish. These two symptoms lead to fat deposits, especially in the abdomen due to the disease. The dogs show a “trunk obesity”. They have a big, drooping stomach, while the rest of the body is often very slim.
In addition to hormonal diseases, there are other diseases that can lead to weight gain because the dog can no longer move sufficiently. Unfortunately, these diseases are also favored by being overweight, which is why the dog is in a vicious circle here. Cardiovascular problems and diseases of the respiratory tract, for example, lead to fatigue and poor performance.
With a previous load with Osteoarthritis or Arthritis , on the other hand, does not want the dog to move much because of pain. With affected animals you can observe that they have to get up with difficulty or that they have to “run in” after lying down.
For some diseases, drugs are necessary that lead to an increased appetite and thus secondary weight gain. First and foremost, antiepileptic drugs and glucocorticoids should be mentioned here.
Consequences of Being Overweight
Obesity is primarily to be seen as a disease that inevitably leads to further diseases. Overweight dogs live on average up to two years less than normal-weight dogs of the same breed due to the consequential damage and diseases.
Joint and Movement Disorders
Obesity leads to musculoskeletal problems in dogs of all ages. In growing young dogs, obesity and excessive energy consumption can lead to irreparable orthopaedic damage.
In adult dogs that are overweight, the increased weight leads to overuse of the joints and ligaments. The possible consequences are arthritis, arthrosis, disc damage and cruciate ligament tears.
If a dog is overweight, his body also produces more inflammatory mediators, which in turn can contribute to the progression of the arthritis. The consequence of this joint pain is a reduced enjoyment of movement and thus, due to the lower energy consumption, further weight gain.
The larger body mass of overweight dogs leads to a higher need for oxygen. In addition, fat deposits in the chest cavity. The cramped breathing space and the higher demand for oxygen cause breathing problems and shortness of breath. The dogs have poor stamina and tire more quickly.
The dog doesn’t want to move so much anymore and also increases here because of the lower energy consumption.
Obesity in dogs is involved in the development or at least in the progression of heart disease. High blood pressure is also one of the negative effects. However, if the dog loses weight again, some of these restrictions can be reduced again.
In an overweight dog, the excess energy is stored as fat throughout the body. This fat is also stored infiltratively (penetrating into the tissue) in organs (such as the heart or the liver). The problem: the heart is restricted in its functional activity. In addition, however, it has to supply a larger body mass with blood and work against greater pressure in the vessels. All of this leads to heart damage and heart failure in the long term.
Obesity can cause a Develop diabetes mellitus. This is a Type II Diabetes due to insulin resistance. The body still produces enough insulin, but this no longer has any effect on the metabolism.
Diabetic dogs often have food cravings and are tired and sluggish at the same time. This further promotes weight gain. A strict diet and weight reduction can improve Type II Diabetes Mellitus or go away completely.
Risk of Anaesthesia and Surgery
Higher Anaesthetic Drug Consumption and Poor Wound Healing
Adipose tissue stores the anaesthetics and therefore requires a larger amount. At the same time, the breakdown of drugs in the liver and their elimination via the kidneys is impaired. Together with the often impaired lung function and cardiovascular problems, an overweight dog is considered a risk patient.
The reduced blood flow in the entire body tissue also increases the risk of wound infections and wound healing disorders during operations.
Infections and Other Difficulties
An overweight dog has a decreased immune system and is therefore more susceptible to infections and other diseases.
Too much body weight also affects fertility. A pregnancy in the bitch is fraught with greater risks and the birth path, which is narrowed by fat deposits, makes the birth more difficult.
Infiltrative (penetrating into the tissue layers) fat deposits in the liver lead to a “fatty liver” and thus to a restricted liver function. In addition, an overweight dog is often more sensitive to heat, irritable, and less agile.