According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, an estimated 54% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese. That means over half of our dogs are suffering from a very preventable condition – enough that there is an entire organization dedicated to counter its prevalence. This is because obesity attributes, or even directly causes, so many health conditions. The best way to stay healthy is to prevent disease and illness, so making sure our dogs are a healthy weight is important. So many dogs are overweight without their owners even realizing it, and many veterinarians don’t push a healthy weight enough sometimes. But obesity is not anything to take lightly. It has nothing to do with appearance and everything to do with health. Here are some of the many conditions exacerbated by obesity, although we cannot list them all here.
#1 – Osteoarthritis
This is one of the most common obesity-related ailments that appear in dogs. Studies have shown that food intake has a significant impact on the development of osteoarthritis in dogs, with the most severe cases being linked to unrestricted feeding. Osteoarthritis can cause pain and lameness, is progressive and incurable and is exacerbated by the increased pressure put on the joints and cartilage by excess weight.
#2 – High Blood Pressure
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, has been recorded in up to 45% of obese dogs with these dogs showing significantly higher blood pressure than dogs in the control groups did. Just like in people, untreated hypertension can result in several different ailments.
#3 – Heart & Respiratory Disease
Even without overt heart disease, overweight dogs routinely show preclinical changes in the heart that will eventually lead to the diagnosis. Obesity is also recognized as a risk factor for tracheal collapse in small breed dogs and worsens asthma, laryngeal paralysis and brachycephalic airway obstruction syndrome. The obstruction of thoracic movement, called obesity hypoventilation syndrome, also occurs.
#4 – Insulin Resistance & Type II Diabetes
Endocrine disease is extremely common in overweight dogs. Diabetes mellitus is regularly seen alongside canine obesity. As the increased blood glucose level and increase of tissue mass of the body asks for more insulin to be secreted, the body responds until the requirements exceed the amount of insulin the body is able to produce – thus leading to diabetes mellitus.
#5 – Increased Risk of Cancer
Several studies have shown that overweight dogs have an increased risk of developing malignant tumors. Mammary tumors and bladder cancers are some of the most commonly associated with canine obesity. Just like in people, the exact link is uncertain and there are many other factors that come into play with the development of cancers. However, it is reported that obesity has increased the risk of these two types of cancers.
#6 – Increased Risk of Injury
Extra tension on the joints from excess weight has shown to increase the risk of injury, specifically cruciate ligament tears. In dogs, the cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) is similar to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in people. CCL tears are extremely common in overweight dogs and almost always need extensive surgery. It’s often likely that if a dog injures one CCL, the other will soon follow. Other breeds, such as Dachshunds and Corgis, are prone to developing intervertebral disc disease (IVDD). This is a painful condition of the spine that is exacerbated by obesity. Dogs suffering hip or elbow dysplasia often have decreased mobility when overweight.
#7 – Decreased Quality of Life
Not including the ailments listed already, obesity will greatly diminish your dog’s quality of life. Overweight dogs often suffer from lethargy, a loss of stamina, difficulty breathing and heat intolerance – all conditions that are easily preventable. Obese dogs are often in pain, at a higher risk for heat stroke and are general uncomfortable carrying around all of the excess weight. You might think your dog is active now, but imagine how much more mobile they could be if they shed some extra pounds. We all want our dogs to live a long time, but the quality of their lives should matter just as much. If your dog is overweight or obese, consider what’s best for them and what will make them most comfortable.