Dogs obesity and influence of the owner on its development



Dogs obesity and influence of the owner on its development

Tom Neri, Third year veterinary student, Kosice


Introduction and table of contents: Obesity is one of the greatest health challenges of the 21st century and leads to decreased life expectancy for humans and dogs alike. It is a preventable disease and is often a major risk factor for the development of several non transmissible diseases, such as disability and premature death. The good news is that it can be easily preventable and solved by educating dog owners about their feeding habits and by encouraging a healthier lifestyle.

In my presentation I will be discussing:

  • Genetics and ancestry
  • Poor Feeding habits
  • Diagnostics of obesity
  • Physical and mental obese related diseases
  • Prevention and treatment


Genetics and ancestry

As we know, dogs and wolves share a common ancestor. Their common ancestor was a prehistoric wolf that lived in Europe or Asia anywhere between 9,000 to 34,000 years ago. As a result of their lineage many wolf instincts have also been past down to the present-day dog.

Wolves do not know when they will come by their next meal and as an instinct they consume as much food as they can whenever they catch prey /or scavenge for food. An adult wolf can consume up to 9kg of meat in a single feeding which is a huge amount considering their body weight is usually around 60kg.

Dogs however are fed on a regular basis by their owners but their survival instinct is still present and they will consume as much food as possible when fed.


Poor Feeding habits

*Picture of obese dog*’’please feed me I’m starving’’

How many times have you seen this look on your dog’s face? How many times have you given your dog something that you shouldn’t have?  You might have a strong will towards your dog however many owners succumb to the begging of their dog and it is causing them to become overweight.


There are two main problems regarding feeding habits. One is excessive feeding and the other is giving inappropriate food. If a dog is fed poor quality or dangerous food, such as snacks, cheap dog food and scraps from the table it can result in him being overweight. Meals should be given on a regular basis and for adult dogs they should be given twice a day, morning and evening.

In addition, there are many foods that are considered healthy for humans but are very toxic to dogs. These foods include grapes, avocados, peach, mushrooms, garlic, onions, raisins, and chocolate.


Diagnostics of obesity

Obesity is diagnosed by measuring the dog's body weight and by obtaining a body condition score, which involves assessing the amount of fat on the body. Every breed has its optimum weight number. One of the problems is that many pet owners fail or refuse to see that their dog is obese and in many occasions their vet has to notice and inform them about the problem.

Here you can see a general chart of optimum fat percentage and condition score.


Physical and mental obese related diseases:

Here are examples of the conditions that can occur as a result of excess weight:

  • Exercise intolerance, decreased stamina
  • Respiratory compromise (breathing difficulty)
  • Heat intolerance
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Diabetes or insulin resistance
  • Liver disease or dysfunction
  • Osteoarthritis (lameness)
  • Increased surgical/anesthetic risk
  • Lowered immune system function
  • Increased risk of developing malignant tumors (cancer)

These health problems are not only of a physical nature but also of a mental one. Obese dogs suffer psychological and behavioural problems, due to lack of physical stimulation. It has also been found that dogs show fewer signs of being emotionally disturbed and of being in pain following a successful weight loss program.


Prevention and treatment:

Just like any other disorder the best way to fight it is by preventing it from ever happening and the best way to do so is to inform dog owners about proper nutrition, exercise and all that which has been mentioned above.

In order to treat and prevent obesity, vets should routinely monitor the dog’s weight and should encourage the owners to do the same. This can be effective in catching the pet’s weight increase before it becomes a more serious problem.

A diet plan can also be given which takes into account the optimum weight of the breed, the dog’s age and exercise level. There are also numerous diet foods which can be given to enhance results.



Tom Neri