Are You Shortening Your Dog's Life?

Americans are becoming heavier and heavier, it seems to be a sign of our times with extra portions of food being offered to us all the time. Most of us realize that extra weight is not healthy for us and we try to lose weight. But, how many of us pet owners give thought to what we are doing to our dogs, when we feed then all those extra treats that they beg ever so nicely for. I know when those big soulful brown eyes look longingly into your face you cannot resist “just one more little bite.”

Recent studies show that up to 40 percent of our dogs are overweight and most owners are not even aware of it. Just a 10 percent excess of weight can shorten a dog’s life by at least 33 percent and more weight can shorten your pet’s life as much as 50 percent. Overweight induced diseases are the fourth top cause of canine death.

An overweight dog is not a happy dog even though it loves eating all the lovely treats you feed it. Sadly the problem is not caused only by over feeding your dog; it seems that we also under exercise our dogs. They have become couch potatoes, just as we have for the most part. Any excuse is a good excuse for not going out for that much needed walk.

What are some of the problems that obesity in our dogs can cause?

We more or less expect our dogs as they get older to get arthritis or other muscle stiffening diseases as part of getting older, but do you realize the more weight a dog has to carry the sooner its joints may begin to ache. Extra weight puts extra wear and tear on those aging joints sooner than necessary.

If you pet is pre-disposed to hip dysplasia as some breeds are or has other type of joint problems the extra weight can cause much pain and discomfort.

If you live in a warm climate, like I do in Florida, the extra weight can cause breathing problems and intolerance to heat. The heavier the dog the harder it is to with stand the heat. Activity can cause all sorts of problems as the fat stored in the around the abdomen can constrict the diaphragm, lungs and airways. Dogs cool themselves by panting and being over weight can restrict a dog’s breathing, fat being an insulator makes a dog feel hotter and the chances for heat stroke or heat exhaustion become greater.

Being overweight may not cause heart problems, but being overweight can create problems in treating a heart condition in a dog.

Overweight dogs have a greater chance of having intestinal type problems. Upset stomachs, diarrhea and excessive gas can be severe to demand veterinarian treatment.

There are many other diseases that have yet to prove that excessive weight causes them, but many overweight dogs have shown a predisposition towards them. Problems such as liver problems, diabetes, some forms of cancers, urinary tract infections, some immune system conditions and the most common of all in dogs, skin and coat problems can be brought on by excessive weight.

How can you tell an overweight dog from one that is not overweight, like in humans it shows in body formation? A dog that is the proper weight will have a waist and its stomach will not sag. You can feel the dog’s ribs. An overweight dog will have no waist; a sagging tummy and it will be had to feel its ribs.

What can you do to help your dog return to its normal weight? Well, just like their human counterparts it is necessary to reduce calorie intake, exercise and stay away from fattening treats.

Ask your vet to help you decide on the best method to reduce your dog’s size. Even a little weight loss will produce a longer life span. Exercise is a great help. Walking your dog is not only good for the dog; it will help you with some cardiovascular exercise, too.