Being overweight is by some measure the largest current canine epidemic. It’s estimated that as many as 60% of UK dogs could be overweight or obese, and unless this trend is addressed, the problem is only going to get worse.
So why are there so many overweight dogs in the UK today? Why are so many pet parents asking themselves, “why is my dog overweight?” Why are so many other people seemingly oblivious to their best friend’s obesity? And what can be done to stem the tide of this health-sapping, life-shortening epidemic?
Too much food
The first and most obvious culprit in the “why is my dog overweight” condundrum is too much food. For one of a number of reasons, people are overfeeding their dog.
It’s a simple fact that if any of us, we or our dogs, consume more calories than we require for our daily energy requirements, we or they will put on weight. So if your dog is carrying excess weight, the very first thing you should do is reduce the amount you are feeding your best friend.
Yes, your dog will initially appear to be hungry. Yes you are going to feel as guilty as sin. But studies have concluded that being overweight or obese can shorten your dog’s life by up to 2 1/2 years.
So which would you prefer? An overweight and essentially unhappy dog who can’t enjoy life to the full, or 2 1/2 years more time with a healthy, happy and energetic dog who will still think it’s a puppy even when it’s in its dotage?
Too little exercise
The next fly in the ‘why is my dog overweight’ ointment is too little exercise. It’s a sad fact that so many people today are living considerably more sedentary lives than they once did. It stands to reason that if you as an individual are less active than you used to be, your dog too is going to be less active.
It’s an uncomfortable fact perhaps, but there is said to be a direct correlation between being overweight in humans and obesity in their dogs. If that is the case with a given individual, both man and beast are going to gain considerbly, and lose weight, by getting more exercise. And if you combine an increase in exercise with a reduction in the size of your dog’s meals, then you’re going to be well on your way to helping your best friend lose weight.
A 2021 study by the Royal Veterinary College concluded that there were eight dog breeds more prone to excess weight gain than others.
It appears that the Labrador Retriever, Beagle, Pug, Golden Retriever, Border Terrier, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Cocker Spaniel and English Springer Spaniel have been cursed with a tendency to put on excess weight without really trying. If your dog is one of these breeds, you clearly have your work cut out!
Neutering or spaying
Being overweight or obese has long-since been associated with neutering or spaying in dogs. What isn’t generally known however is the reason why neutered (male dogs) or spayed (female) dogs tend to gain weight.
The simple fact is, dogs do not automatically gain weight once they have been neutered or spayed. Gaining weight once a dog has been sterilized is not a biblical imperative. Spayed and neutered dogs have a tendency to gain weight because their reduction in sex hormones means they have a lower energy requirement. They need fewer calories in their diet.
If a spayed or neutered dog is fed the same amount of food as before the surgery, the dog will gain weight unless exercise is increased.
Bottom line, spayed and neutered dogs need around 10% less food than before they were sterilized!
As your dog ages, it will at some point begin to slow down. It’s inevitable. It happens to all of us sooner or later. And if that reduction in exercise is not matched with a reduction in calories, any dog is obviously going to gain weight. In human beings we tend to think of it as middle aged spread. There isn’t necessarily a canine equivalent, but the result can be just as damaging!
As a canine nutritionist I recommend you regularly weigh your dog throughout its life. Then you’ll know for certain that when your senior dog begins to slow down a little, it’s time to reduce those calories!
The fat pet gap
Overweight dogs have become the norm. As human beings, weight creeps up on us slowly. So slowly it sometimes takes us a while to realize that we’ve gained weight. It’s the same with our dogs.
We spend a great deal of time with our dogs. Because of that, we tend not to notice that they might be slowly gaining weight. By the time they have become overweight or obese, the chances are you’re so used to it you don’t even notice the fact.
That is known as ‘the fat pet gap’. Essentially it’s the normalization of obesity because it creeps up on our pets so slowly, we don’t even notice it. And because the vast majority of other dogs we see are in the same boat, having an overweight dog looks normal!
It doesn’t actually matter why your dog is overweight, the facts remain the same. An overweight dog is more prone to certain types of cancer, diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease and a myriad other health problems.
An overweight dog is also going to live a shorter, unhealthier and inevitably unhappier life. Don’t do that to your best friend. He or she deserves better.
Take control of your dog’s weight. Contact me for a Weight Management Consultation today!