When I worked at the vet hospital, many of my patients were overweight or obese. As a matter of fact, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention discovered that 52.7% of U.S. dogs are overweight or obese as of 2014.
There is a lot of speculation surrounding the reasons why pet obesity is so prevalent. In my experience, many pet parents find it difficult to understand the severity of seemingly small weight gain. Specifically, if a dog is supposed to weigh 18 pounds and they actually weigh 20 pounds, this might not seem like a big deal. However, this dog has gained 11% of its body weight. This is equivalent to a 135-pound woman gaining 15 pounds! Although this dog may not be obese, this weight gain may be enough to affect their health.
Obese and overweight dogs face a myriad of potential diseases and issues due to the extra weight they are carrying. Specifically, there are 5 main reasons why your dog needs to get in shape now:
Similar to humans, overweight dogs are at a higher risk for diabetes. Although dogs can live happy and healthy lives with diabetes, the disease will include a lifestyle change for both you and your pet. Controlling the disease so that your dog doesn’t experience the symptoms of diabetes requires daily insulin injections, changes in their diet, and an increase in exercise. Not to mention, having diabetes puts dogs as risk for even more diseases.
2. Osteoarthritis (Degenerative Joint Disease)
One of the primary causes of DJD is excess or abnormal wear of the joints and cartilage. Obesity places undue stress on the joints, making them more susceptible to DJD. Although osteoarthritis can be treated and your dog can be made more comfortable, the degeneration of their joints will make mobility more difficult.
We all wish we had more days with our dogs. A study published by the American Veterinary Medical Association found that keeping dogs on a healthy diet (specific to amount of food) increased their life by an average of 1.8 years. Meaning, when dogs are kept at a healthier weight, they are positioned to live longer than dogs that are obese or overweight.
4. Respiratory and Heart Disease
Carrying excess weight makes it difficult and challenging your dog to be able to breath, while simultaneously putting added strain on your dog’s heart. Needless to say, a stressed heart and lungs can make your dog’s life difficult and uncomfortable.
Unfortunately, obesity increases the chances that your dog will be diagnosed with cancer. Frankly, it’s bad enough that so many breeds and individuals are genetically prone to cancers, so we need to do what we can as dog parents to make sure they don’t get cancer due to their lifestyle.
If you are at all concerned about your dog’s weight, I highly recommend having a conversation with your veterinarian. Additionally, keep in mind that your dog ages faster than you do, so popping into your veterinary hospital for weight checks between annual exams is recommended.
Rachel Sheppard is the author and founder of My Kid Has Paws. She is a Social Media Manager, blogger, corgi mom, animal lover, volunteer, graduate student, and shoe collector.
After graduating from the University of California, Davis with a Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Science & Management, she worked as a Veterinary Assistant for 3 years. Her daily interactions with pet parents inspired her to start her blog focused on pet health, pet rescue, and pet products. She has a true enthusiasm for veterinary medicine and animal science, and enjoys sharing her knowledge and experiences with pet parents.