The PDSA has warned that fat dogs are expected to outstrip healthy ones by 2019 as pet obesity increases. Eighty per cent of veterinary professionals reported seeing a greater number of obese pets in the last two years.
With increasing numbers of overweight dogs, cats, rabbits and even small rodents being brought into their surgeries for treatment.
The 2014 PDSA Animal Welfare report, estimates that one in three dogs in the UK are overweight or obese, and that the proportion of overweight pets will continue to climb.
According to the PDSA, the causes of pet obesity are fairly straightforward: pets are being fed too much and exercised too little. With feeding there are two general problems. One is overfeeding an otherwise good quality diet. Owners don’t follow feeding guidelines – they guess what’s the right amount or they feed on demand, when they think their pet is hungry. The second thing is people feeding their pets treats throughout the day such as takeaways, cheese, chips, crisps and of course too many doggy treats and pets really do struggle to burn off those extra calories.
Obesity can prevent your dog from enjoying many physical activities. It decreases speed and stamina, and makes it more difficult for your dog to deal with heat. It’s also associated with the following medical conditions:
• Increased weight can place an excessive burden on joints, tendons and ligaments, causing arthritic changes (especially in pre-existing conditions, such as hip dysplasia) and ligament tears (particularly of the anterior cruciate, or knee, ligament). The added weight on the spine can increase the chance that predisposed dogs, such as many long-backed breeds, will develop intervertebral disk disease.
• Obesity can increase the risk of diabetes.
• Fat in the chest and abdomen can make breathing difficult.
• Overweight dogs present a greater surgical risk because of the effects of obesity on heart and lung function. In addition, thick layers of fat may make it difficult for the surgeon to reach the surgical target.
• Overweight dogs may have decreased immune function, increased skin fold pyodermas (bacterial skin infections) and possibly increased chance of some cancers.
Due to the many different shapes and sizes of our dogs it can be difficult to know if your dog is the ideal weight but here are some tips:
• Standing above your dog you should be able to feel their ribs (and in some breeds see the first 2 or 3 of them).
• Your dog should have a nice taper at their waist (between the abdomen and where the hips go into the socket).
• A very obese pet will have a pendulous abdomen, hip fat, and neck fat, all of which are very noticeable.
• Your dog may become out of breath after only a short walk or in moderate heat.
When it comes to exercise, the PDSA report estimates that across the country, six million dogs go for a daily walk shorter than an hour long, and a quarter of a million dogs don’t get walked at all.
As part of a balanced diet (see our previous blog on what’s good and what’s not) the right amount of exercise is critical to your dog’s general wellbeing. At My Best Friend we specialise is group off lead walking (with owners consent and where it is safe to do so) as we believe this is best way to exercise the dogs in our care and help keep them happy, healthy and stimulated.