Have you heard about people experiencing the effect of staying home more and gaining weight called the Quarantine 15? Well, it is happening to our pets too and can lead to serious health consequences. While it may be too soon to know the full impact of social distancing or home quarantine on our waistlines, we know that many people find themselves feeling a little thicker around the middle. Facebook recently reported more than half a million people using hashtags such as #quarantine15 or #quarantineweight. Increase in stress, anxiety, less physical activity, new baking hobbies, indulging in comfort foods and more screen time are just a few reasons for the weight gain. What is this doing to our pups? Pretty much the same thing.
Before coronavirus changed our daily routines, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention reports in 2019 that 55.8% of dogs in the U.S. are overweight or obese (body condition scale of 6-9.)
A survey of 1,000 pet parents from early June revealed that 25% feel their pet has gained “a little weight” while 8% feel their pet has gained “a lot of weight” since March 2020.
The health risks to overweight dogs are serious and every dog owner should be aware of them…
Damage to Joints, Bones, and Ligaments
Older Studies suggested that 25% of overweight dogs develop serious joint complications. If the joints and bones are required to carry excess weight, they usually start to become damaged. Arthritis can develop and the joint changes and pain associated with hip dysplasia can become markedly more severe as well. Extra tension on joints caused by an increased weight load can also lead to the damage of certain ligaments. One of the ligaments in the knee, known as the anterior cruciate ligament, is very prone to strains and tears. If this ligament is torn, the knee becomes very unstable and the dog will be reluctant to use it. Usually Surgery is required to repair this torn ligament. Dogs carrying extra pounds of weight place extra demands on virtually all the organs of their bodies. When the body organs are overloaded, disease and sometimes death are the consequences.
Diabetes Mellitus (Sugar Diabetes)
One of the most common complications of obesity in dogs is the development of diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes). Being over weight causes an increase in the secretion of insulin in response to the increased blood glucose level in the overweight dog. Insulin is also more in demand simply because there is a greater amount of body tissue in an overweight dog. When requirements for insulin exceed the ability of the body to produce insulin, diabetes mellitus develops. If the need for insulin increases over a long period of time, the cells in the pancreas which produce insulin can actually ‘burn out,’ again resulting in diabetes.
Heart Disease and Increased Blood Pressure
Something new to dogs in the last 30 some odd years is hypertension. Just as in humans, excess weight tends to cause increased blood pressure (hypertension). The heart obviously has an increased work-load since it must pump additional blood to excess tissues. This can lead to congestive heart failure.
In overweight animals, the lungs are not able to function properly. The additional fat in the chest restricts the expansion of the lungs. The extra fat in the abdomen pushes against the diaphragm, which separates the abdominal cavity from the chest. This also results in less space in the chest for the lungs to expand on inspiration. To make matters worse, the increased quantity of tissue puts an increased demand on the lungs to supply oxygen.
Dogs who are overweight have less endurance and stamina. Carrying all that extra weight around takes a lot more work. The heart, muscles, and respiratory system are all asked to do more than they were designed for.
Decreased Liver Function
The liver stores fat so when a dog is overweight, an increased amount of fat of course, builds up in the liver. This is called hepatic lipidosis. This condition can result in decreased liver function.
Increased Surgical and Anesthetic Risk
We talked about effects of excess weight on the heart and lungs above however, the effects on the heart and lungs have serious ramifications if the dog has to have anesthesia. Cardiac arrest (heart stops) and poor circulation of oxygenated blood to the tissues can occur. Most anesthetics are taken up by fat, so an overweight animal will take longer to come out of anesthesia because the anesthetic must be removed from the fat by the body. In addition and important to know is that most anesthetics are broken down by the liver. A fatty liver will not be as efficient at breaking down anesthetics and other drugs, so again, recovery may be delayed or even death may occur.
The increased fat in the tissues makes surgery its self more difficult. It is harder to find or get at what you are looking for in the body for all the fat. For example, abdominal surgery in an obese dog, there may be literally inches of fat between where the skin incision is made and the organ you need to work on is situated, such as the urinary bladder. So not only is the surgery now more technically difficult but the procedure will take longer then usual, which again increases the anesthetic risk.
An overweight dog has an increased risk of developing constipation and may also have more problems with intestinal gas.
Decreased Immune Function
Obesity in dogs is directly associated with decreased resistance to viral and bacterial infections. Canine distemper and Salmonella infections, especially appear to be more severe in dogs who are overweight.
Skin & Hair Coat Problems
The risk of skin and hair coat diseases are increased in dogs who are overweight. The skin forms more and different types of oils, the skin may fold in on itself creating pockets, which are ideal for the accumulation of oils and the development of infections.
Increased Risk of Cancer
Studies suggest that obese dogs tend to have an increased risk of developing certain types of cancers, including a particular type of cancer of the urinary bladder. A recent study also found that dogs who were obese at one year of age were at greater risk of developing mammary tumors.
Decreased Quality and Length of Life
It should be evident from the above discussion that the over-all health, ability to play, even to breathe, are diminished in overweight dogs. Overweight dogs often become more irritable due to being hot, in pain, or simply uncomfortable. Overweight dogs die at a younger age than those maintained at an optimum weight.
I hope I helped to make it clear that we are not contributing positively to our dog’s health when we allow them to become overweight.
Consider Hydrotherapy Swimming with Dip’n Dogs in Orlando,FL
Fitness swimming & hydrotherapy are ideal for dogs of any age because it works the entire body, including their physical AND mental systems. It is non-weight bearing and it is the most recommended exercise for overweight and obese dogs. Unfortunately, most land based exercises put your dogs joints, ligaments & bones at risk for injury & overuse, so natural swimming is the only exercise that will 100% protect your dog from injuries & ortho issues as they age. This also means NO jumping in and out of the pool! Controlled swimming is vital for your dog’s weight loss plan and swimming with a certified hydrotherapist is the only recommended way to ensure successful weight loss. Our dogs depend on us to keep them healthy and happy, so getting them started with swimming is one of the best things you can do for their health.
Benefits of Swimming for Weight Loss in Dogs:
- Non-Weight Bearing
- Safe Exercise when controlled
- Keeps Joints & Bones Lubricated
- Promotes Healthy Blood Circulation
- Improves Skin & Coat
- Increases Healthy Muscle
- Improves Stamina
- Promotes Mobility, Flexibility & Movement
- Decreases Inflammation in the body
- Strengthens Cardiac, Respiratory & Digestive Systems
- Burns Calories & Fat Quickly
- Slows the Progression of Aging
Help Is on the Way
If your dog is already a bit pudgy, don’t despair, while helping your dog to lose a little weight is not as simple or convenient as feeding a kibble prescribed for over-weight dogs, it is not a hopeless endeavor either. If you should decide to commit yourself to helping your dog lose weight then it is best to adopt a holistic approach to the weight loss. You will need to monitor everything from the amount of exercise, the type of food and treats fed to the amount of food and treats, he or she actually partakes in on a daily basis. Be upbeat and positive about the weight loss around your dog. If you are depressed and feel sorry for your dog because you have cut back on the amount of food you are feeding or because the dog appears to prefer napping to walking, your dog will will pick up on those feelings and emotions and react accordingly.
Exercise is a must! There is no way around this. The more muscle mass an animal has, the more calories the animal burns while inactive. Start with short periods of exercise and depending on the age and health of your dog, decide whether to start with short walks or a game of catch. What ever you start out with, be consistent and do it daily. If you have access to a swimming pool your dog can use, this is one of the best ways to exercise your dog, especially if he/she is already effected by joint problems. Increase the time and/or distance every couple of days and do as much exercise as possible out of doors in the sunshine and fresh air. Stuck at home during coronavirus or don’t have enough yard space for your dog to run and throw the ball? Bring your dog to Dip’n Dogs for a fitness swim! We help overweight and obese dogs lose the pounds they need to safely and effectively. All while building their stamina, strengthening their cardiac & respiratory systems and letting them preform a fun exercise to get all of that mental “pent-up” energy out!
Take everything into consideration in order to make weight loss successful for your cherished pet. We’re not looking for fast weight loss, because, as with humans, fast weight loss does not always mean the weight will stay off. Fast weight loss and weight gain traumatizes the body. Animals should loose no more than 1-2% of their body weight per week. For instance, if your dog weighs 50 pounds, 1% is 1/2 pound weekly and 2% means 1 pound weekly.
If your dog is not already presenting with ailments or diseases relating to his extra pounds, consider beginning a preventative lifestyle for him/her. Feed a raw, species appropriate diet. At the very least, throw away the kibble and canned food and lightly cook for your dog. Supplement with digestive enzymes, probiotics and natural sources Omega 3 fatty acids.
Make sure you are giving fresh, filtered water to your dog. If you don’t drink your tap water then don’t give it to your dog. Let’s not “kill” our dogs with what we may consider kindness by giving them that extra little treat when they look at you with those big brown eyes or letting them skip the walk today because they look so content and happy napping on the couch. Love them by gifting them good health and long life with a proper diet, exercise and companionship.
About Walk’n Dogs – A Dog Care Company | Maitland, FL
Rachel has been working in the Pet Care Industry for the last few years and started her career in a local Canine Health & Fitness Center that also incorporated canine hydrotherapy, dog daycare & boarding. While working at Rocky’s Retreat, under the previous ownership of Sherri Cappabianca and Toby Gass, Rachel became certified in canine hydrotherapy and they taught her everything she knows about canine care, hydrotherapy, health and fitness.
Rachel is currently the owner/founder of Dip’n Dogs Canine Hydrotherapy and Walk’n Dogs – A Dog Walking Service in the Orlando, FL area. Dip’n Dogs provides water therapy for dogs with any orthopedic condition, degenerative disease, injury or obesity. Walk’n Dogs provides in-home visits for dog walking, pet sitting, pet taxi and pet errands. Each service is customized to fit each dog and their needs. Rachel caters to the Winter Park, Baldwin Park, Maitland, College Park, and Altamonte Springs, FL areas.
Rachel is also the owner and dog mom to her two beagles, Leo and Lola.