We all know that being overweight is a big problem in humans but we wanted you to be aware that it is also the case in animals. More and more of our dogs, cats and even rabbits are overweight. It is a big concern as it reduces life expectancy.
As it’s such a common problem that we wanted to review why it happens, how to recognize it and finally how to manage it.
Cause and consequences of being overweight
We believe that for any issues in life it is important to find the cause in order to fix it and this applies to overweight/obesity problems as well. One of the major causes is obviously diet, many dogs are fed portions too big at each meal and eat in-between. It is important to weigh the food and only give what is recommended for the age, size and activity level of the animal.
Treats should also be counted in the daily amount of food. Too much food can be as harmful as not enough.
It is also important to make sure the quality of the food you give is good, it has to be balanced and appropriated. A regular small amount of unappropriated food could have a dramatic effect on the body.
Another major cause is lack of exercise. The body needs to move to be able to burn the calories off, if it doesn’t, they will be stored under fatty tissue. Dogs should get regular exercise for their physical but also mental health. The amount of exercise your dog does should take into consideration his breed, age and general health/physical condition.
The relationship between food and exercise is also important to look at, a working dog will always need more food than a family/house pet.
Most of you probably know how to recognize an overweight dog. You’ll find the dog is panting a lot and has difficulty to move around. The body’s structure (bones, joints, muscles, etc.) comes under stress and it becomes harder to move around if your pet is heavier, this puts more pressure on the joints which can cause inflammation (this is called arthritis). As the animal carries more weight the body will change its structure by producing more bone structures within the joint (this is arthrosis).
If you were to look inside the body, there is a lot more going on. The amount of fat you can see from the outside is only the tip of the iceberg as there is also a lot of fat that you can’t see. Having more fat means having less space for everything else. Some fat goes in and around the arteries and makes it harder for the blood to go through the system which will lead to a rise the blood pressure. Some fat will go around the organs which will compress them. This means that their natural movement will not be fully allowed.
A fatty diet will also make the pancreas work harder in order to regulate the blood sugar. This increases the chances of developing diseases such as diabetes.
How can I know If my dog is overweight?
You get a good idea of a dog’s fitness levels by monitoring the weight but there is also other signs. One example is a dog getting breathless after a small amount exercise or refusing to do things he normally enjoys (jumping on the sofa, playing etc). You can also feel his body, you should be able to feel his ribs but not to see them.
If you are not sure, you can always ask a professional to check for you.
How can we help?
Osteopathic techniques can help the whole body regain movement and work on any imbalances created by the extra weight however most of the work lies with the owner who is going to have to maintain an appropriate diet and exercise routine for their pet. Everything needs to be done as part of a slow progress, your dog’s body is used to a certain amount of food per day, if you reduce it too quickly the body will struggle to tolerate it. The same goes with exercise. Your dog can’t run a marathon straight away and much like humans it has to build muscles (including the heart and diaphragm) and slowly lose some fat to take weight off the joints.
We hope this is helps you understanding overweight related issues better and how to fight them.
Thank you for reading!