We know you love every inch of your dog’s body just the way it is, but pudge can become a real problem over time. Like humans, dogs are at greater risk of disease when they are obese, and research shows that an overweight dog’s average lifespan is 10 months shorter than its underweight or healthy counterpart. An obese dog’s quality of life will also diminish greatly in those final years. In other words, skinny dogs just live longer.
Below, we offer a refresher course on some of the health risks associated with canine obesity, as well as tips for keeping your dog trim.
Even in a healthy dog, this degenerative joint disease can begin to take its toll as your pet gets older. In simple terms, osteoarthritis is instability in the bones and joints that causes them to rub together unnaturally, creating inflammation. The bones will initially rub against joint cartilage, but eventually that cartilage erodes and leaves nothing to protect the bones from rubbing against each other. It’s incredibly painful and will present first as a limp and eventually as an inability to even move around. The risk for this disease is much higher in overweight dogs, as their joints are only designed to support so much weight.
High blood pressure and heart disease
The heart is an incredibly sophisticated organ. It grows proportionately within the body it serves and its function is to pump blood through that body to keep it alive. But what happens when its body becomes unnaturally large? The heart increases its workload to keep up with demand, but it can only handle so much strain. Eventually, it gets overworked, leading to high blood pressure, which can cause congestive heart failure. This, in turn, can lead to a number of painful respiratory and gastrointestinal problems.
IVDD (Intervertebral Disc Disease)
As with osteoarthritis, IVDD is a degenerative disease whose likelihood increases in overweight dogs. The intervertebral disc is the piece of cartilage that sits between each spinal vertebra, acting as a sort of shock absorber for the spine. Thus, long-backed breeds such as dachshunds and corgis are particularly susceptible to IVDD. Having said that, the strain put on the spine of an obese dog can become too great to bear whether long-backed or not. This will cause the discs to slip out of place, resulting in severe back pain and, in some cases, rear limb paralysis.
Sugar Diabetes (Diabetes Mellitus)
When you eat, your body turns food into glucose (sugar), which your cells consume for energy. Meanwhile, the pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that acts as a kind of key to open cells up and allow for the entry of that glucose. In cases of diabetes mellitus, the cells build up a resistance to that insulin, rendering the “key” ineffective. Overeating plays a big role in creating that resistance. When cells recognize an abundance of nutrients flowing through the blood, they become overwhelmed by the responsibility to consume everything. Rather than taking on more than they can handle, the cells tell their insulin receptors to act like a bouncer at a crowded party and just stop letting anything in. Though diabetes can be managed, there is no cure, and your dog will require regular treatments to battle the host of painful symptoms caused by this disease.
So, what can you do to prevent obesity in your dog?
Fortunately, this part is the simplest. The key factors in obesity are a poor diet and overeating, as well as a lack of exercise. As a pet parent, these are all well within in your control. A nutritionally balanced diet served in appropriately sized portions is the first step to keeping your dog at a healthy weight. Fresh, homemade food can help keep weight at bay as well, and some companies will even send pre-portioned meals to your door based on your dog’s ideal caloric needs.
If you still start to see your pup getting a little soft around the midsection, you might not be moving enough, either! Try incorporating more activity into your lifestyles. Trust us, you’ll both feel (and look) healthier.