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PET HEALTH Dealing with dog obesity

Help, my dog is obese!

Esther van Luipen

The only one that can get away with being fat after Christmas is Santa himself. For the rest of us, unfortunately, it is time again for New Year’s resolutions to lose weight and get fit. Thinking about all the leftover turkey and gammon – we were not the only ones that over indulged. A big percentage of our pets are overweight without the owners even realising it. Now is the time to assess your pet’s waistline.

Is my dog overweight?

Your dog needs to have a discernable waist between the ribcage and hindquarters. If you gently feel the chest you should be able to feel the ribs and in shorthaired dogs you should be able to see the last three ribs.

What can go wrong?
When a dog is overweight, there is extra stress on joints, which can lead to arthritis, pain and reluctance to exercise. Sometimes losing weight alone is enough to eliminate the pain and the need for arthritis medications.
Also, just like in humans, being overweight can lead to Diabetes Mellitus, heart disease, breathing difficulties and a fatty liver. Also, there would be an increased surgical/anaesthetic risk if your pet needed emergency surgery. Ultimately, being overweight can take years off the life span of your dog.

Why is my dog overweight?
Dogs become overweight largely because they are given too much food and/or the wrong kind of food. If your pet is overweight, your vet can give you feeding advice or, in some cases, prescribe a diet.
Too little exercise can also be a factor. A dog needs at least two good long walks a day. A lot of dog owners think that a dog gets all the exercise it needs by being outside all day. Unfortunately, this is not true. The dog mainly sits on the doorstep waiting for you.
Some breeds of dogs are more likely to put on weight than others. Labrador Retrievers, Cocker Spaniels and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are all examples of such breeds.
Neutering is very important for many reasons, including the prevention of unwanted puppies and unwanted behaviour, but it also slows down the metabolism of the dog. Still, don’t let this be the reason not to neuter your pet. A healthy lifestyle with the right food is enough to keep the weight down.
In some cases, there is an underlying disease like an under-active thyroid gland or Cushing’s syndrome. Whatever the cause of your pet’s weight gain, it is always a good idea to seek the advice and support of your veterinarian.