Like humans, when food intake is greater than energy output, a dog gains weight. Improper diet, inadequate exercise, genetic predisposition, and hormonal disorders -- like thyroid or pituitary problems -- are the main contributing factors to obesity in dogs. A dog whose body fat exceeds 20 percent of his total weight is described as obese.
"Overfeeding is the leading cause of obesity in dogs," says Dr. Richard Albrecht of the Millis Animal Hospital in St. Louis. If your dog is obese, you are responsible. You control what your dog eats. Work with your vet to create a diet plan that will restore your dog to her ideal weight.
Being overweight can shorten a dog's life -- it puts a strain on the heart and other organs, stresses joints and ligaments, and creates a greater surgical risk. Obese dogs are also at increased risk for diabetes, breathing difficulties, and reproductive problems.
A dog under 2 years old who is overweight has a greater tendency to be obese its entire life. The sooner you address your pup's weight problem, the longer your dog is likely to live.
Some medications can affect weight gain. Ask your vet about such possible side effects if your dog is on medication.
Certain breeds have a genetic predisposition to being overweight. They need more consistent exercise and dietary supervision because of these genetic tendencies.
Breeds with a lower incidence of obesity can still gain too much weight; genetic predisposition is just one contributing factor.
The following breeds are commonly acknowledged to have a genetic predisposition to obesity.
- Basset hounds
- Cairn terriers
- Cocker spaniels
- Labrador retrievers
- Shetland sheepdogs
Continued on page 2: Evaluate Your Dog