Obesity in dogs can have a detrimental effect on a dog’s health, quality of life, welfare and can even shorten their lifespan. It is a very common condition, and many pet owners are not aware their dogs are carrying extra weight. It is important to ensure you dog is a healthy weight, and this can be monitored at home by using a body condition scoring chart (BCS), in between vet visits and weight checks.
As with many conditions, prevention is better than cure, keep an eye on your dog’s BCS using a chart such as the one above, a normal dog should score a 3/5 (or 5/9). A weekly check will help keep you informed of any under or overweight issues and allow you to take action to rectify this.
There are many health conditions which can be made worse, or brought on, by obesity in dogs.
· Heart disease
· Lung disease
· Liver disease
· Increased risk of tumours/cancer
· Reduced function of the immune system
· Bladder stones
· Breathing difficulties
· Reduced tolerance to heat
· Diabetes or resistance to insulin
· Increased risk of complications during anaesthesia
Quality of life
Obesity in dogs can also quite dramatically affect their quality of life, this can include :
· Shortened lifespan
· Joint problems/lameness
· Back problems/slipped disc
· Inflammation due to excess fat
· Decreased ability to exercise
· Increases healing time
· Excess body fat
It is stated in the Animal Welfare Act 2006 part (2)(b), the dog’s need for a suitable diet. A dog is unlikely to become obese if fed a healthy, well balanced diet, so it is the owner’s responsibility to ensure this need is met. Part (2)(c) of the Act, the dog’s need to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns. An obese dog will struggle to exercise as well as a dog of a healthy weight, exercise is important and should not be restricted due to obesity.
As well as overfeeding and/or under exercising, there are of course some medical conditions which can cause obesity, these include hypothyroidism, which is an underactive thyroid gland, and Cushings disease, which is presented in overactive adrenal glands.