Obese Dogs: 5 Reasons Behind the Dog Obesity Epidemic
Dog Obesity - the number one chronic disease of dogs!
Take a walk down the local park or along the beaches and you’d think our Aussie dog population a fit bunch. But a different picture hides behind many backyard fences. Our overweight and obese dog population is growing with no signs of slowing. Obesity affects both city and rural dogs across the whole of Australia. And it doesn’t stop here- pet obesity has become a worldwide issue!
Obese Dog Statistics:
⦁ 54% of dogs in the USA are classified as overweight or obese dogs
⦁ 45% of dogs in Australia are classified as overweight or obese dogs
⦁ 40 % of dogs in the UK are classified as overweight or obese dogs
…And this weighty issue is replicated in many other countries across the world. View Dog Obesity Infographic.
Dog Obesity: What's driving this overweight dog epidemic?
It is not hard to draw parallels between trends in human obesity and pet obesity. Both are on the increase. So it is not surprising that our dogs are becoming fatter when (in the main) their lifestyles mirror our own. Read on to discover 5 dynamic shifts that are contributing to the dog obesity epidemic.
Obese dogs: At the heart of the family home
Dogs are cherished members of the family. They are no longer relegated to the backyard or the kennel with a bone. Instead most dogs live an indoor lifestyle and are fully integrated into the family unit.
This shift in dynamics has opened a myriad of opportunities for canine weight gain. Namely, by increased calorific intake. Much of this intake can be seen as incidental as it often does not register with pet owners. Licking up spills, hoovering up dropped food, the quick deliverance of off-cuts and tidbits during meal time preparation and being fed left-overs and table scraps, to name a few. These quickly tally towards a dog’s daily calorific intake requirement.
Add children into the mix and the effect can be quadrupled! These walking, talking- food delivery and spillage machines are many a fat dog’s best friend!
Dog Obesity: A side effect of the human-pet bond ?
The human-pet bond and our ability to anthropomorphize has also grown no end. In considering our dog’s feelings, as owners we do not want our dogs to feel “sad”, “bored” or “left out” and so we will often compensate with food.
Likewise when our dogs are being good, we reward with food. And of course dogs have cottoned on to this! Begging rituals, outlandish performances and pitiful looks are commonplace, in the hope of eliciting a tasty treat!
Canine Obesity: linked to reduced daily activity
The indoor lifestyle generally equates with reduced activity and exercise levels. There is no chasing of birds or the postman when you are inside!
Fortunately many Aussie dogs do get to enjoy the best of both worlds; an indoor lifestyle with access to their own yard/garden. But again this is on the decline with trends in high density living and decreases in the average plot size. Add into the mix time-poor owners and many will say “sayonara” to regular walks and outings. Canine actively levels are becoming sub-optimal.
Naturally, reduced energy output combined with increased calorie intake is the perfect makings of an obese dog!
Pet Foods and Treats: Significant contributors to pet obesity.
We must also consider the compounding factor of pet foods and treats. Superbly marketed, highly palatable, calorie- laden treats. What dog does not delight in the rustle of a shiny, bright colored, divine smelling treat packet?
And what owner does not derive pleasure from seeing the animation and excitement their dogs display in anticipation of a delicious treat.
Not only are treats super tasty, but mainstream dog foods have also upped their taste stakes. In order to maintain market share, these companies need dogs to “love” their food and thus ensure happy customers and repeat business.
And as a consequence we now have a huge array of highly palatable foods that dogs will literally engorge themselves on. Dog food is now so tasty, that dogs will regularly eat beyond satiety if food is not restricted which quickly leads to pet obesity. In fact dog food is so tasty; I have to keep my own dog's dry food under lock and key to stop my toddler from snacking on it!
Which brings me to my final point: To prevent pet obesity all food must be restricted! As owners, we need to understand how to read pet food labels and ensure that we are not overfeeding our dogs their mainstay diet.
It is important to remember that dog food guidelines are just that- a guide. Many pets require significantly less food than is suggested on the packaging label.
Canine Obesity: Increased education and awareness
Limited awareness and education into maintaining a healthy weight dog does not help the healthy dog cause. As dog owners we need to recognize “fat” for what it is; not “cute and cuddly”, but instead a serious health issue that is literally robbing years from our dogs lives and setting them up for years of disease and disability.
Browse our articles to discover more about dog obesity and how you can help transform the lives of obese dogs. Feel free to spread the word to increase pet obesity awareness among friends and family!
If you are concerned your dog is a little chubby? Your first step in tackling dog obesity is to find out whether your dog is a healthy weight. Do your furred friend a favor and take 5 minutes to discover what your dog should weigh now using our dog weight calculator.
Dr Charlotte Williamson BVSc MPHTM
Dog Weight Coach and Veterinarian
Before and After: Now 16 kg (35 lbs) lighter Maxo’s life has transformed from being constantly exhausted and plagued by lameness and itchy skin, to a life full of energy and play!
Want to help your dog feel like a puppy again? With our 12 week vet-led weight plan your dog will shed those excess pounds and gain health, energy and play!