Obesity in dogs is by no means just a visual problem. Depending on the severity, it is a disease. Obesity can cause significant other health problems, for example diabetes mellitus and joint diseases, but also skin problems and tumor diseases. In addition, the lifespan of overweight dogs can be shortened.
Dog owners can usually judge for themselves whether their dog is overweight or not. To do this, the following points must be taken into account:
The following guide values can be used to estimate the extent of obesity:
If the obesity is manifest, a controlled, strict diet is essential. This requires a lot of consistency from the dog owner.
Insofar as certain metabolic diseases such as hypothyroidism can be excluded, the development of obesity is the result of an imbalance in the energy balance. This means that more energy is absorbed than the dog needs or uses. This is also where a diet begins by reducing energy intake. It is important that the dog continues to take in sufficient quantities of all essential nutrients despite the diet.
Factors such as genetics or castration can also promote the development of obesity. Certain breeds tend to eat more food and gain weight as a result, which many Labrador, Cocker Spaniel or Beagle owners can confirm. Not every neutered dog automatically gains weight, but for many the food intake increases with decreasing activity, so that the response should be to adjust the food.
Dieting reduces the dog’s energy intake. © alexugalek-stock.adobe.com
If the dog is slightly overweight (less than 10% deviation from normal weight), the dog owner can consider for himself where the energy intake can be restricted. It is advisable to reduce the supply of treats or to omit them completely. Many dog owners are not aware that various chews and dried meat products are very high in energy and therefore real calorie bombs. These include, for example, pig ears, bull pizzas, but also dried lungs, rumen, tendons or scalp.
If a dog does not get any treats, the food can be reduced slightly if the dog is slightly overweight. This should only be done for a short period of time. A maximum duration of the feed reduction is difficult to define across the board because it depends on the individual feed. If there is no weight loss after about six to eight weeks, a veterinarian should be consulted.
In order not to have to do without treats completely, the following alternatives are possible:
For dogs of normal weight, treats should make up a maximum of 10% of the daily energy intake. For dogs with illnesses, including obesity, a maximum of 5% of the daily energy requirement should be covered by treats.
Treats are real calorie bombs for dogs. © elmar gubisch-stock.adobe.com
If a dog’s body weight exceeds its normal weight by more than 10%, it is advisable to contact the veterinarian directly. There are special diet foods for overweight dogs, both dry and wet. Compared to commercially available dog food, these have a lower energy density. They have a reduced fat content and enough protein so that when you lose weight you lose fat but retain muscle mass.
If dogs are barked or if they are given self-cooked rations, it is possible to keep these forms of feeding. However, a balanced and individual calculation of the rations should then be carried out by specialized veterinarians so that the demands on a corresponding diet are guaranteed.
Feeding plays the main role in weight management. It can be supported by sufficient exercise, provided that there are no joint diseases.
A “zero diet” should not be carried out for an overweight dog, not even for a few days. Otherwise there is a risk of an insufficient supply of minerals, vitamins and water. Furthermore, a total withdrawal of food would lead to the fact that not only fat tissue, as desired, but also muscle mass is lost.
A reduction in the usual feed over a longer period is also not recommended. This not only reduces the energy intake, but also the intake of individual nutrients, which, depending on the feed, can lead to incorrect supply in the long term.
Weight reduction should take place very slowly and can take several weeks to months. The dog should lose a maximum of 2% of its current body weight per week.
Exercise helps combat obesity in dogs. © Alex Green-stock.adobe.com
If a dog is slightly overweight, the owner can first try to regulate this himself, preferably with the treats. If you are clearly overweight, you should consult a veterinarian to discuss how to proceed.
However, it is best to prevent the development of obesity right from the start, i.e. already during the growth phase. Care should be taken to ensure a balanced diet, adequate energy intake and, in particular, a controlled supply of treats.