[Dog health] Obesity-prone breeds and how to help


According to a study published in the Journal of Small Animal Practice in conjunction with the Royal Veterinary College, the eight dog breeds which have higher odds of being overweight are: 

It’s worth noting that there are a number of other factors which the study found to contribute to a dog’s weight. Middle-aged pooches were found to be more likely to be overweight or obese, as well as insured dogs and dogs who had been neutered. However, some factors were found to have little to no effect on weight, including sex and the size of the dog.

How human food impacts our dogs’ diets

One of the potential reasons for the high rates of dog obesity is dog owners treating their pets to human food without knowing how this can impact their diet. In fact, a survey by The Grocer found that a whopping 72% of pet owners admitted to feeding their pets human food. While not all human food is necessarily bad or unsafe for our pets, we often don’t provide them in moderation. This can lead to our pets getting a lot of excess calories without us even realising.

Meat is a common leftover we treat our dogs to which can take up a surprisingly large amount of their daily recommended calorie intake. Take bacon for example — while you may think two rashers seem like a reasonable portion size, for very small adult dogs, such as chihuahuas or miniature dachshunds, this equates to 58.5% of their daily recommended calories. For small-sized dogs, such as pugs, this portion size equates to a third of their daily calories, and for medium-sized dogs, like beagles, it equates to a fifth. Even for very large dogs weighing 40kg+, such as rottweilers, two rashers of bacon is the equivalent of 8.5% of their daily calorie recommendation.

Sausages and roast chicken are two other human foods which can take up a lot of our pet’s daily calories. One thick sausage, for example, takes up 27% of a small dog’s daily calories, 16% of a medium dog’s calories, and for large dogs, such as Dalmatians, this portion size equates to 11% of their overall daily calories.

It isn’t just meat which can be highly calorific for our dogs, however. If you have leftover scrambled egg from your full English, the equivalent of one egg can take up 31% of an extra small dog’s calories, although this comes to just 4% of calories recommended for an extra large dog, such as a Labrador. The lowest calorie human treat on our list is a 10g whipped cream pup cup, although this still takes up just under a tenth of a small dog’s daily calories.

What the experts say

Liz Clifton, dog bite prevention educator and rescue dog rehabilitator, is unsurprised with the recent increase in dog obesity rates, saying she has “noticed that this has increase over the last ten years and especially since lockdown. When families spend less time active outside this flows to their dogs too.“

Liz also says that your pet’s upbringing and background may have some bearing on how likely they are to be overweight: “If you adopt a rescue dog, especially an ex-street dog, remember that they will have had to fend for themselves and may be more prone to overeating and obesity. This is because on the streets they would have had to eat whatever they found whenever they found it due to scarcity of and competition for food.”

When it comes to helping your pet stay a healthy weight, Liz tells us it’s important to stay observant of not just your pet’s physical health but their behaviour too. You should “take time to notice how your dog is behaving and how freely they are moving. Are they showing any signs of pain or discomfort when they move? Or are they reluctant to move at all? If you find that they are, always get a veterinary opinion.”

Stress can also have an impact on a dog’s weight, Liz tells us: “As with us humans it’s easy for dogs with a high stress baseline to hold onto excess weight and fall into obesity. So take time to notice how your dog is behaving and if they are showing any signs of stress.”

Some signs of stress that Liz tells pet owners to look out for include “lack of interest in food, water, usually enjoyed activities, or company with you or other members of your family (all species included), as well as excessive licking, howling, whining, sleeping, panting, or regression with toileting habits.”

The good news is that there are a number of ways to help your dog relax more to reduce their underlying stress levels. A few suggestions from Liz include “enjoying a snuggle, going for a gentle walk, dog yoga, playing dog calming music, or Reiki.” The dog expert also tells us it’s important to look for an underlying cause of stress to help our pets overcome it and feel calmer. Liz says these stressors could be anything from “physical pain or discomfort, to any recent changes to their environment, family situation, or routine. When in doubt always seek your vet’s advice and remember that there are also holistic vets if you prefer.”

Tips for reducing your pet’s calorie intake

Remember, you should always speak to a vet before making major dietary adjustments. Weight gain and obesity may be indicators of other conditions, such as hypothyroidism, so your vet may want to rule other factors out before starting your pet on a new diet.

“It’s not surprising that obesity can have such a big impact on a dog’s health, but many of us don’t realise just how many conditions can be linked to having excess weight. From bone health to heart health to simply overall wellbeing, obesity can come with a huge toll on your pet. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to help your pooch stay a healthy weight, even if they’re on the obesity-prone list! To help your pet lose weight healthily and sustainably, ensure they have filling, balanced meals and enjoy their food in moderation

“Cutting down on human treat food can also make a big difference. Most of us don’t realise just how calorie-dense our food can be for our pets. This is especially the case for smaller dogs and breeds which are more obesity-prone, such as pugs. For small dogs like these, a single sausage can take up almost half of their daily recommended calorie intake.

“It’s important to note that it’s always a good idea to see a vet if you have concerns about your pet’s weight. Every dog is different, and just like humans, they all have different nutritional needs. Whether your furry friend is a puppy or fully grown, consult with the vet before making major dietary changes.”– Lisa Melvin, Pet Range

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