Many pet owners believe it’s cute for their beloved pet to be “chubby”, but chubby is not healthy; it’s obesity.
Consider using the Body Condition Score Diagram to learn if your pet is overweight.
A Body Condition Score (BCS) is based on four criteria:
1. How easily felt the ribs are,
2. How obvious the waist and abdominal tuck is,
3. How much excess fat is beneath the skin and
4. How much muscle mass is present.
For a dog to score in the healthy range, the ribs should be easy to feel (but not seen). A defined waist, or “abdominal tuck,” should be evident when your dog is viewed from the top and side respectively.
Multiple areas of the body are affected by excess body fat including the bones and joints, the digestive organs and the organs responsible for breathing capacity. Scientific evidence reveals that fat tissue is biologically active. It secretes inflammatory hormones and creates oxidative stress on the body’s tissue, both of which contribute to many diseases.
Obese dogs develop an increased risk for:
• Cancers of all types, diabetes mellitus, heart disease and hypertension
• Osteoarthritis and a faster degeneration of affected joints
• Urinary bladder stones, and
• Anesthetic complications as they’re less heat tolerant
Underlying diseases that contribute to obesity include hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland) or Cushing’s disease (overactive adrenal glands).
Medications: Certain medications can contribute to canine obesity such as phenobarbital, an anticonvulsant.
Nutrition: Dietary factors also contribute to excessive weight gain in dogs. The number of meals and snacks fed, the consumption of table scraps, and an animal's presence when owners prepare or eat their own meals all contribute to canine weight gain.
Learn to assess whether your dog is overweight and work on a plan with your veterinarian to reduce your dog’s weight.
Dogs become overweight or obese because of a combination of causes such as physical, owner-related emotions, environmental or disease-related conditions. Musculoskeletal problems and developmental abnormalities may also greatly influence a dog's ability to exercise and may ultimately contribute to weight gain. Indiscriminate feeding habits including feeding table scraps, poor diet, and constant access to food are significant contributing factors to this most prevalent issue in the canine population.
Go to the Association for Pet Obesity website for wonderful tools and articles for assessing the weight of your pet to determine if your pet is obese and what you can do to reduce the risks.