The scientific point of view: Obesity in dogs – Unpleasant to look at or actual health risk?
The Christmas season does not leave our four-legged friends unscathed either. A treat from the doggy advent calendar, another extra bone here and there – and of course a tasty Christmas stocking for pooch.We mean well and want to spoil our dog just a bit, but it is also a bit rash. Too many or unhealthy and toxic treats (including ordinary chocolate) put too many pounds on our dog and can seriously affect the dog’s health.
An overweight dog not only doesn’t look his or her best but can also seriously affect the dogs health. As in humans, excess weight causes high blood pressure, which, if allowed to go on for a long period of time, can affect heart and kidneys. In addition, studies have shown that fat dogs suffer more frequently from skin conditions, tumours and diseases of the musculoskeletal system. Overweight dogs therefore experience not only a reduced quality of life but also have shorter lives.
Fact is that a dog will become overweight if he eats more than the energy he uses. The causes are manifold. Commonly, over-feeding at the puppy stage, genetic precondition (some breeds), food envy, very palatable food or too much attention paid by owner while the dog is eating result in the increased food intake. Once the dog is overweight, losing the excess pounds is rather difficult. If the dog is starved, the body activates its own “survival system” which has been ensuring the wolf’s survival in the wild. However, for our overweight pet this system is a great obstacle on the path to the ideal weight. As soon as the dog is put on a diet, the survival system kicks in and reduces the dog’s energy consumption. When the dog is experiencing hunger, he will use up less energy instead of reducing the fat deposits.
How can I successfully put my dog on a diet?
A diet should cause the dog to reduce fat deposits while building up muscles. Simply reducing the food ration not only activates the survival instinct but also causes deficiencies of essential proteins, vitamins and minerals. A good weight reducing food therefore provides a lower calorific intake while containing plenty of high quality protein, minerals and vitamins. In addition, these special foods (such as Select Gold Light) also contain fibres filling up the stomach and accelerating digestion and providing the dog with enough high quality nutrients while reducing the calorific intake. In addition to reduced energy food, the dog’s survival instinct must be fooled and the energy consumption increased. Digestion uses a lot of energy. The more meals a dog is given per day, the more energy will be used by digestion. This is why reduced calorie food should be given in several meals per day. Of course, exercise is another energy burner. But not total exhaustion in one outing. More effective is light exercise several times a day. Exercise can be increased with the improving fitness level of the dog. If the dog then gets plenty of attention instead of treats and is not exposed to the smell of cooking in the kitchen, he will become a slim and healthy dog without a rumbling stomach. Some bowls and feeders are specially designed to slow eating, try these to discourage “scoffing” too much food too quickly.
Low calorie food with plenty of fibre and high quality ingredients (such as Select Gold Light) forms the perfect basis of a dog diet. In addition, light and slowly increasing exercise is very important. Like humans, it is true that prevention is much easier than losing weight. This way potential obesity can be prevented. Weigh your dog regularly; your local Maxi Zoo store offers a free weighing service in all locations! Change to a high quality light food even if the weight of your dog has increased just a little.