The lead article in the April 2007 issue of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine is about
obesity in canines. One study done by the National Academy of Sciences show that 25 to 40% of
our companion animals are obese. Not just fat. Obese! And, three quarters of their owners don’t
see their dogs that way at all. Or, do not want to see their dogs as obese? The result, sad to say,
is the same: unhealthy, unhappy and uncomfortable companions who count on their people to
monitor such things as what and how much they can eat.
10% overweight may shorten the dog’s life by 33% and 20% overage makes that figure leap
to 50%. The review states that the “fourth top cause of canine death is obesity-induced
disease” according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. And people refuse to see
the situation or, if they see it, often fail to take action to improve the lives of those animals that
depend on them 100%. What to me is even sadder is when vets do not tell their clients that
their dogs are obese and make it clear just what that is doing to the animal! Dr. Sean Delaney
of the University of California, Davis, says: It is debilitating, and obese animals are really
Routinely I see dogs struggling to walk with their owners. Their breathing is rapid, they are
panting, they are limping from the joint pains – the one thing they are not doing is enjoying the
The illnesses you impose on your dog when you allow her to gain those extra pounds are
multiple. Arthritis and other orthopedic disorders are often related to the excess wear and
tear imposed on body joints having to deal with the extra weight. While many dogs may get
arthritic conditions as they age just being a “little bit” overweight brings on the conditions sooner,
escalates the deterioration, and causes pain earlier in the dog’s life.
Existing problems are exacerbated and they include luxating patella, canine hip dysplasia,
ruptured or torn ligaments supporting joints, and ruptured spinal disks. Even small reductions in
weight can give the suffering dogs some relief from the pain.
Breathing problems are clearly evident and never more so than with breeds with breathing
problems to begin with – English Bull Dogs, French Bull Dogs, Boxers, Pekinese, Pugs, etc. These
breeds have enough trouble breathing without fighting the extra pounds! Fat dogs often try to
stop regularly while walking in an effort to improve their breathing. They indicate shortness of
breath, they snort, gasp, use a wide footed stance and allow their tongues to hang out of their
mouths all with the hope of increasing air intake. How very, very sad.
Fat contributes to the condition because it constricts the diaphragm, lungs and airways. Nice
That fat and the fat in the abdomen of course complicates surgery both for the surgeon and
for the anesthesiologist who tries to monitor the anesthesia. Fat cells absorb some forms of
anesthesia and therefore take a longer time to leave the body after surgery. Obese dogs have
a higher rate of death following surgery than dogs with proper body weight. The doctor’s job of
diagnosing problems is totally compromised as she probes and palpates trying to check on organs,
locate a lump, etc. and lab results on blood and urine tests are altered!
And we aren’t finished yet with the downside of obesity. The liver may be affected, diabetes may
result, some studies indicate that obesity contributes to bladder or mammary cancers. Immune
system suppression, incontinence and skin and coat health are affected negatively.
So – be realistic about your dog. Really, really accept responsibility for those extra pounds
and what it is doing to your dog. She doesn’t know that by eating the extra dog food, happily
accepting a slice of pizza, nibbling away off and on all day long, begging for and getting fatty
foods, causes her the pains making so much of her life less comfortable than it could be and
having her die sooner than need be.
Only you can help her to live well and comfortably.