What is Canine Obesity?

Your pet is what you eat. If that’s got your attention, read on. 

The temptation to feed your dog is difficult to resist at any mealtime when it hangs around the table. An unbreakable rule and part of training a dog is that it shouldn’t be around at human mealtimes. A family member will pass on a bit of human food and in many homes table scraps are collected at the end of a meal and fed to the dog.

This is plain wrong. While dogs have evolved over millennia to digest cooked food, their systems are not designed to process human food. Sugars, salts, fried fat and processed foods are bad enough for humans, so imagine what it can do to a dog. 

While a roly-poly dog is cute to the eye, it will struggle to walk, be low on energy and breathe heavily. Pet obesity, like human obesity, is an epidemic. Both species eat too much bad food and exercise too little. If bad nutrition starts early in the pup stage it flares up into full-blown obesity within a couple of years, resulting in a shortened lifespan and quality of life. 

The definition of obesity is “an accumulation of excess fat that results in weight of over 15% that is optimum for the breed.

What comprises poor nutrition in Dod's Diet-

Poor nutrition in a dog’s diet is anything that has:

  • Salt, which results in heart failure
  • Too much or too little calcium contributing to abnormal skeletal growth and joint disease
  • Inadequate hydration and overloading of potassium leading to kidney disease
  • High fat & carb, low protein causing obesity.
    High fat content also causes pancreatitis. 
  • Low on vitamins, omega 3 and amino acids

In addition to obesity, poor nutrition also causes bad breath, body odour, dandruff, allergies, dull coat, bad skin, fur loss, flatulence, inconsistent bowel movements, inhibited growth, regular illnesses, diabetes, respiratory & heart conditions, high blood pressure and cancer. The list can go on. 

Diagnosing Poor Nutrition 

The first and obvious step is to visit a vet. Honestly share with him or her any symptoms you might have observed in addition to disclosing the dog’s diet.

The vet will make a physical examination to record the breed, age, weight and dimensions (if you do not have an existing file with that information). A prior file with the history of the pet’s medications and conditions will help. This may be followed with urine and stool analysis, blood work reports that reveal kidney & liver functions. 

If there are emergencies attributed to poor nutrition, fluids, dewormers, antibiotics or anti-inflammatories might be administered. After a process of elimination and/or treatment, the vet will evaluate the dog’s current diet and lifestyle and prescribe a diet and exercise regimen. 

Recovery and Corrective Action

As far as obesity is concerned, losing weight is not an easy task. It requires you- the pet owner- to first start making changes in your habits and lifestyle. Follow the regimen religiously. Watch the carbs, fats and calories. Invest in a weighing scale and aim to lose 1% of current body weight every week.  The diet plan may include increased fibres, reduced calories, varied levels of protein and vitamin & mineral supplements

Preventive action and FAQs

Regular visits to a vet (once every three months) can catch most common ailments. Annual blood testing and other diagnostic tests may reveal conditions that are not visible to the naked eye. 
It makes the vet’s and your task easier if you draw up a list of FAQs and have some information prior to your visit. 

What to look for in dog food?

Dogs are omnivores. They consume a combination of animal and plant protein, carbs, fats and minerals. Your dog’s food should not make a hole in your pocket. Compare the nutritional information on the labels between premium food and budget products. The main nutrient required will have a higher or lower concentration and hence may account for its affordability. There are no discernible advantages or disadvantages of dry versus wet foods in regards to nutrition. Be familiar with their ingredients. 

Can I feed home-prepared meals and how to cook them? What ingredients can I use? 

You can feed them a combination of packed and home cooked meals. Use the same source of ingredients that you would for yourself. Vegetarian households can substitute animal proteins with cottage cheese, lentils, peas, broccoli and oats or vegan products. Boiling all ingredients together and serving with stock is a wonderful way of hydrating them and ensuring no loss of nutrition.

How often do I feed my dog? 

Dogs can be fed twice a day. Bowls must contain fresh water at all times. If you have more than one dog, feed the obese one separately.

What is the right quantity and calorie count and how are calories counted? 

Low calorie diets for senior, indoor, spayed or neutered dogs. The dog’s weight and breed plays an important part in finalising the regimen. You could cut down on calories by giving them bits of boiled broccoli, or raw carrots, asparagus and cucumber as snacks. Ask the vet to give you a breakdown based on the prescription. 

What is the right form and duration of exercise? 

The vet will suggest the vigour and duration of the exercise depending on the breed and age. Normally a brisk 30-minute allowing for “smelling and discovery” distractions on the way back is advised. Control the pace and the direction; the dog is not in-charge of this activity; you are. Throw a ball or toy around the house or garden at random times to keep them stimulated. Never exercise them immediately after a meal. This can lead to a number of gastro-intestinal problems. 

The Takeaway 

We love our dogs and there is no greater joy than seeing them bound around like our own children. As a matter of fact children and young adults can learn to shoulder the burdens of responsibility at a very early stage through caring for dogs. Learning to read the signs and a dog’s body language is key to their longevity and quality of life.

If your pet has been put on a diet and exercise regimen, remember that weight loss is a gradual process. Aim for a half to 2.5 kilos every month depending on its current situation. Adopt the diet in a phased manner. Move from a fourth to half then three quarters and fully to the prescribed diet over three to four weeks. Monitor and record its progress and be sure to keep the vet updated. 

Dogs discover the world through their noses and stomachs. It is up to you to make sure this discovery doesn’t ruin their lives. So live a long and healthy life with your and your family’s companion by being attentive to their needs.