Most of us have read the media reports of increasing obesity among children and adults in the United States and other parts of the Western world. However, as we have started getting fatter so have our dogs. And while some people think fat dogs are adorable, obesity in animals is just as unhealthy as it is in humans.
Do I Have Fat Dogs?
One way to determine if your dog is overweight is by asking your veterinarian. However, you can also find out for yourself. Stand over your dog so you are looking down directly at his back and reach down to touch his ribs on both sides of his body.
You are looking for two things. First, you should be able to feel the ribs. While the ribs should not be protruding obviously from the skin, you also should have no trouble feeling them under the skin if your dog is at its ideal weight. Also, when looking down at your dog you should be able to see your dog’s waist. If you cannot feel ribs or see a waist, then your dog is likely overweight and could be at risk of developing serious health problems.
Health Effects Facing Fat Dogs
Many obese dogs end up developing diabetes. Their body simply can’t produce enough insulin to keep up with the increased demand brought about by the excess glucose in the blood and the extra tissue from the fat. Dogs that have diabetes end up spending the rest of their lives on medication and on a special diet. Once your dog develops diabetes, there is no cure for the condition.
About 25% of all overweight dogs end up having joint problems. The extra weight being carried by a fat dog forces their joints to work harder. Remember that their joints just were not designed to carry excess body fat. Eventually, the joints begin to prematurely wear under the weight leading to pain and movement difficulties. Obesity can also increase problems with arthritis and hip dysplasia. Some breeds are more susceptible than others.
Fat dogs have many of the same types of health problems as overweight humans. Because of those extra pounds, their bodies have to work much harder to carry out simple tasks. As a result, heart problems, high blood pressure, and breathing difficulties are all possible. These can not only reduce your dog’s quality of life, they can shorten the years he has with you.
If you live in a warmer environment, you need to be concerned about another health risk associated with obesity. Fat dogs are at a greater risk of heat stroke. Because all of the fat causes your dog’s body to retain heat, he can’t cool off as easily as he should. Once he becomes hot he won’t be able to cool down as quickly and could face a serious health emergency.
Finally, if your dog needs surgery and is overweight then he is more at risk for complications from the procedure and the anesthetic because of his excess pounds. Additional consequences of an overweight dog are available here from the AAHA: www.healthypet.com/library_view.aspx
The bottom line is if you follow the above steps and suspect you have fat dogs in your home, take action now and work with your veterinarian to establish a weight loss routine for your pet. He will be happier and healthier and you will have your friend with you for a lot longer if you do.
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