We know that studies, literature and health guidelines in people have shown the serious risk of obesity to our health. Our dogs are susceptible to many of those same health risks when they become overweight or obese.
Obesity is an extra-important issue when it comes to canine rehabilitation. Great exercises and treatments to get a dog back up to full strength don't help if you plan on feeding the dog ice cream or junk food every night. Simply put, obesity makes dogs' movements worse and causes them to experience more pain in their everyday lives. Weight management is essential to a successful rehabilitation program.
One of the most common complications of obesity found in dogs is the development of diabetes. Yes, even dogs can be diabetic! A big risk factor for pancreatitis, which can lead to diabetes, is an increased insulin resistance often linked to obesity symptoms. When insulin requirements outweigh the body’s ability for insulin production: that’s when diabetes occurs. Therefore, the more overweight the dog, the higher the risk of diabetes and other health complications.
All those extra pounds also add stress to an overweight dog’s bones, joints, and ligaments, putting them at greater risk to injury. Studies have shown that about a quarter of all overweight dogs develop serious joint problems. In a healthy dog, bones, joints, tendons, ligaments, and muscles all work together to provide the dog with efficient and smooth movement. When they are forced to carry excess weight, they can become damaged. Dogs that are already at risk for hip dysplasia will see even more severe pain and joint changes.
The additional stress on joints caused by the increased amount of weight dogs are carrying can also increase their risk for ligament damage. Even though ligaments are tough, they can only withstand so much weight before they begin to tear. Torn ligaments often require surgery to repair. One of the predisposing factors for serious knee injuries such as cranial cruciate tears (ACL) is obesity.
Certain breeds of dogs are also prone to developing problems with Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD), such as dachshunds, which have long backs and short legs. Carrying extra weight increases the likelihood that they will develop extremely painful and debilitating back conditions. The increased stress on the back due to the excess weight can cause an increase in problems.
Finally, obesity increases the risk of heart and lung disease and increased blood pressure.
One well-known study conducted by Purina examined two groups of dogs for fourteen years. Dogs that were fed a controlled diet, compared to dogs that were allowed to eat as they wished in the same breed, lived an average of 1.8 years longer. Be smart about what you’re feeding your dog, and make sure they get enough exercise. Personally, I feed my dogs measured amounts at two set times throughout the day to help manage their weight, on top of regular exercise. Talk to your vet about what a healthy diet looks like for your pet. Letting your dog become overweight shortens its lifespan and makes recovery difficult.
For more information on this topic, contact us at Pawsitive Strides Veterinary Rehabilitation & Therapy.