Risks for Chonky Dogs and How to Help

fat Labrador retriever sitting in the sun

Dogs are very playful animals, and pet parents love to play and cuddle in bed. I personally like cuddling a pup with a little extra chonk (chonk is slang for chunky or fat). But it occurred to me one evening when a friend of mine made me realize the importance of a healthy weight. An overweight dog may make you happy, but it puts the life of your dog at significant risk.

Obesity puts stress on vital organs and can cause several diseases in dogs. Obesity has become the most common but preventable disease in the dogs of North America. However, all over the world, one-fourth population of dogs weighs more than normal. The percentage of obese dogs is much higher in seniors.

This article will give you a comprehensive understanding of canine obesity. In addition, it will put light on the causes and effects of obesity in dogs and the probable techniques to prevent obesity in dogs. Sit back! And start your understanding about canine obesity.

What is obesity?

measuring the dogs chest to determine obesity

Obesity refers to the accumulation of extra body fat. Excess fat accumulates in the body for later uses; this later use seldom comes if your dog eats his daily required food. In the wild, animals may not have access to food every day and the body stores the reserves in case food is scarce. But our pups that eat routinely, may not need to store extra reserves. However, some pups may need to store reserves if they are super active or preform a job (hunting, herding, water rescue, sled dogs, etc.) in their daily lives.

Extra fat is accumulated in different parts of the body. Normally, obesity results if energy intake exceeds energy expenditure. The body converts the excessive energy into fats in the form of adipose tissue. Obesity decreases the life span of dogs and is responsible for developing diseases such as diabetes, heart diseases, osteoarthritis, etc.

What is body condition scoring?

If you are at home, body condition scoring is the easiest way to find out the degree of obesity of your dog. You can give your furry friend a score from 1 to 9 just by carefully observing his body. Body condition scoring (BCS) can help you understand the health status of your furry friend.

There are four categories, and your furry friend will lie in any of them. The four categories are underweight, ideal weight, overweight and obese. You should carefully observe the body condition and note down the following observations.

body condition scoring for dogs. showing the different thickness of dogs
Photo Credit: Home for Good Dog Rescue

Underweight: if your furry friend is underweight, you can easily observe or see the ribs, pelvic bone and/or spine even from a distance.

Ideal weight: if your furry friendlies in the category of perfect weight, you feel his ribs if you pat him and can’t see clearly from a distance. In addition, you will see the waistline thinner than the upper body or chest when you look from above.

Overweight: in this category, you can observe the ribs of your furry friend by gentle patting. In addition, the waistline will not be any shorter or thinner than the upper body.

Obese: the abdomen of your furry friend will be distended. In addition, you can only feel the ribs if you apply pressure. When viewed from above, the waistline will be equal to or larger than the upper body or chest.

How can bodyweight help us know the obesity?

It is impossible to check the body fat at home; however, you can measure the body weight and tell if your dog is overweight or obese. There is an optimum range of body weight for each type of breed. You should check the normal body weight range for your dogs' breed.

If your furry friend is within the normal body weight range, you should be grateful. However, if your furry friend weighs 10% more than the normal body weight range, he is overweight. If your furry friend weighs 20% more than the average body weight, he is obese.

French bulldog on the scale to weigh body weight

If your furry friend is overweight or obese, he immediately needs to lose weight to keep healthy and live a long life. There is research that obese dogs live shorter lives as compared to leaner ones. According to an estimate, overweight dogs live two years less than their leaner companions. Therefore, you need to help them lose weight.

What are the possible risks for obese dogs?

In the body of obese dogs, fats don't accumulate and stay there. It was later considered that fat belongs to inactive body tissue and doesn't participate in body physiology. However, after new researches, it is well known that fat is not an inactive biological tissue.

Instead, body fat releases inflammatory mediators that put oxidative stress on the body. In addition, it puts the life of your dog vulnerable to many diseases. Obese dogs are more likely to get cardiovascular problems along with bone and joint problems. Among the obese, diabetes is a pretty common disease.

Following are the possible diseases obesity can pose on your lovely furry friend.

· Different types of cancers, heart diseases, blood vessel problems, hypertension

· Bone and joint problems like osteoarthritis and degeneration of joints

· Kidney stones, urinary bladder stones

· Anaesthetic complications if they are subjected to a major surgery

Dalmatian eating a balanced diet

How do you choose the right amount of food?

Once you find out that your dog is overweight or obese, you need to figure the right amount of food and proper physical exercises to help him lose weight. Obesity occurs when your dog eats more than the required amount of food. The extra food is stored in the form of fat, which increases weight.

First, you need to watch your furry friend's diet. It is not recommended to decrease the amount of food immediately because you may get your dog malnourished. The best way to control your furry friend's diet is to provide him with a balanced diet with fewer calories and more fiber.

Balanced diet

Offering your dog a balanced diet containing all the essential nutrients is necessary to prevent him from malnourishment. However, if you change the diet, you can reduce the number of calories your dog gets. While you are reducing the number of calories, you need to ensure that your furry friend is getting all the essential nutrients in a balanced amount.

More proteins and fewer carbohydrates

Dogs have been carnivores since past times, and therefore their physiology is adapted to eat and digest proteins. In addition, the main source of obesity is the carbohydrate that is provided more than the required amount. The extra carbs are stored in the body in the form of body fat.

So, if you select a food that contains more proteins and fewer carbohydrates, you can help your dog reduce weight. Also, it will fulfil the carnivorous need of your furry friend.

More fibers

If your dog is obese and you want to change your furry friend's diet, it is better to select the one that contains fewer calories and more fibers. In this way, you don't have to reduce the amount of food offered to your buddy. The same amount of food containing more fiber will reduce the calories that your dog gets.

How to reduce weight by exercise or by providing less food?

In actuality, both will work fine. Your dog gets obese when the amount of energy exceeds the required amount. Therefore, it will be better to reduce the amount of energy and increase its consumption. Exercise will increase the amount of energy consumption, and along with this, less amount of food will complete the equation of weight loss.

High protein and fewer carbs will reduce body fat, while high fiber content will increase the body metabolism and increase satiety. In addition to this, you should also eliminate the table scraps and treats until your dog gets to its normal weight. If, however, your dog needs a treat after the training session, you can select the one with minimum calories. You will not find difficulty in purchasing good food. There are several dog foods, canned and kibble, specially designed for weight loss. You should try the one made by a respected brand.

You should understand that exercise is as important as the diet in order to lose weight. Your dog can perform a lot of exercises, including 30 minutes on-leash walk a day. You should also spare some time to take your furry friend out for fun games (fetch, tug-of-war, obstacles and more). It will greatly help him consume the energy. Or visit a dog park where he can play with other pups! The fun play options are almost limitless!

What to do after my dog reaches ideal weight?

Once the ideal weight is achieved, you need to change the diet and exercise plan goal to maintaining healthy weight instead of losing weight. If you continue to feed/exercise the same, your dog may become underweight. Your veterinary advisor can help you with that. The line of action will remain the same, but there will be some changes in the amount of food and workout time. Being vigilant on your pups health is always key.

Also, the ever prevalent preventative care will also help maintain your pups health. You may have read our previous blogs about how acupressure can help with arthritis, allergies, kennel cough, anxiety, and more, but did you know acupressure can also help maintain weight, help prevent tummy upsets, increase motivation for exercise, and strengthen the tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments) in the body? Yep! Acupressure has been around for thousands of years and can benefit any animal in any situation! But it is important to visit the vet when there is a sudden change in behavior (appetite, lethargy, etc.) or you suspect your pup is sick. Acupressure can be used as a safe complementary care option in addition to the vet recommendations.

Final thoughts

Canine obesity is a problem that is spreading day by day. More and more dogs are affected by it, and therefore pet parents need to understand the situation to prevent their furry friends from various health risks. It is important to provide your furry friend with a balanced diet containing all the essential nutrients in the required amount. In addition, getting your pet to the dog park for exercise or playing fun games with them is also important too.

woman hugging her dog

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