Fat Dogs : Is Dog Exercise the Cure?
I love getting out and about with my previously “fat dog”, Maxo! Exploring the great outdoors partnered by my exuberant and inquisitive canine companion is a sure fire way to start the day on the right footing.
The benefits for us both, in terms of physical and mental well-being are immeasurable. Not to mention the social, play, adventure and training opportunities this daily walk provides. You just can’t beat enjoying the outdoors with your beloved canine companion. After all, this is what owning a dog all is about!
However, despite my love of an active lifestyle for my dog Maxo, I pose this controversial question…
Is exercise overrated when helping fat dogs lose weight?
And based upon years of veterinary observations my answer to this is: a most definite YES!
You’ve most likely heard many fat dog excuses (perhaps you even use them yourself)….
“I’ve been really busy lately and just haven’t had time to exercise Fido”
“Yes, I know Buster is a little chubby but I just need to get him out for some more walks!”
“Rusty is a fat dog because he is lazy and not interested in exercise”
“The kids have been pretty slack lately, not taking Rosie down to the park”
Pet industry professionals, in addition to dog owners, continue to blame canine weight gain on inadequate dog exercise levels!
I don’t dispute that many dogs receive sub-optimal activity levels. The trend of smaller yards and time poor owners does not help the ‘active dog’ cause.
However, lack of exercise is not the primary cause of the rise in fat dog numbers …..Excessive food intake is!
Dog Slim Tip!Obese and fat dogs are at significant risk of heat stroke and joint and ligament injury. Play it safe with a veterinary check up before increasing your dog's exercise level.
Granted, low exercise levels do not help with the weight gain picture, but in terms of importance in contributing toward a healthy dog body weight- exercise only accounts for up to 10% of the picture.
And the other 90%? Well you guessed it…dogs become fat because of excess calorie intake!
So let’s just remind ourselves of the basic fat dog weight gain equation and the reason why there has been a continued rise in the number of fat dogs:
Body weight gain = number of calories consumed (a) minus number of calories burnt (b)
If (a) is greater than (b) (i.e. we feed our dogs more calories than they burn), our dogs will gain weight.
So the more food consumed, the fatter our dogs get. The less food consumed, the less weight our dog’s gain.
Conversely, the more we exercise our dogs, the more calories they will burn leaving fewer calories available for weight gain.
However here is the important part….
It is significantly easier to maintain a healthy calorific balance, by eating less than it is by exercising more.
It is significantly safer to shed fat and lose weight, by reducing food intake than it is by rapidly increasing exercise levels of obese or fat dogs.
Research has shown that at a brisk walking pace (10 minutes per kilometer), dogs will expend 1.1 kcal/ kilogram/ km. *
So let’s extrapolate this data to the consumption of a few tasty dog treats:
Fat Dog Favorites
Beggin Bacon Treats: At 30 calories per treat, two treats fed per day is the equivalent of:
A 10 kg (22 lb) dog having to walk 5.45 kilometers (3.38 miles) in just under an hour!
A 30 kg (66 lb) dog walking 1.8 kilometers (0.73 miles) in 18 mins
This is the amount of exercise required to burn off the calories consumed through these treats alone; it does not take into account daily meal intakes and other food sources.
Pig’s Ear Treat: Containing up to 300 calories per ear:
A 10 kilogram (22 lbs.) dog needs to walk 27 km (16.8 miles) to burn off the equivalent energy consumption!
A 30 kg (66 lb) dog needs to walk 9 km (5.6 miles) to burn off the equivalent in calories.
Extrapolate this to a 10 minute per kilometer walking pace and we are talking a 4 ½ hour walk for our 10 kg pooch and a 1 & 1/2 hour walk for our 30 kg friend.
An excellent outing if you happen to have the time and the stamina for it!
Food for thought when helping our fat dogs? I believe so as these examples certainly bring new meaning to the term being “treat aware”! (Discover 4 tips to help you cut back on feeding dog treats here.)
Get started on your dog’s health transformation today by joining our 12 week veterinary-led weight loss program. We’ll help you kick start your “ fat dog ” to “ fit dog ” transformation with individualized dog calorie and activity plans. Find out more about our dog diet plan here.
Fat Dogs: Why exercise focused weight loss plans fail.
I believe the notion of canine weight loss solely through increased exercise levels is doomed to failure.
To achieve any significant weight loss, the time and distance requirement of such approaches rapidly drain owner motivation and diligence and frequently end up causing injury to our fat dogs.
Truth be told, many a morbidly obese dog can barely walk to the end of the street let alone regularly contemplate burning off several bacon chews or a pig’s ear!
Instead increased activity levels should be introduced gradually in conjunction with a calorie restricted dietary program.
Fat dog exercise programs should be based upon the individual dog’s physical capacity with consideration given to age, breed and mobility levels.
It is important to remember that fat dogs are prone to overheating and to joint and ligament injuries. And as owners, we are ultimately responsible for ensuring our dog’s well being and safety.
In summary increased activity levels should be viewed as an accompaniment to a calorie restricted diet program and never as a fat dog weight loss solution in itself.
Yes, we could focus on exercising our fat dogs more in a bid to help them lose weight. However, if we fail to reduce our dog’s calorie intake in the first place; we will face a mammoth uphill battle.
Why set ourselves and our beloved companions such unattainable goals, when the simple solution is to feed less?!
Dr Charlotte Williamson BVSC MPHTM
*2014 AAHA Weight management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats
Introduce your dog to an individualized calorie plan and safe, steady workout. Enroll in our 12 week vet-led dog weight loss plan.
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