Did you know that more than half of UK dogs are overweight or obese?
According to the Pet Food Managers Association (PFMA), obesity currently affects around 51% of dogs in the UK. Dog obesity is a growing concern among vets. In fact, 74% of veterinary professionals believe that the prevalence of obesity has increased over the last 5 years. It’s extremely likely that figures will continue to rise over the next decade, but what does this mean for our dogs?
In short, overweight animals tend to be less energetic, less willing to play and generally get less enjoyment out of life. More often than not, dog obesity is caused by lack of awareness. A recent study revealed that up to 67% of owners are not concerned about obesity. Why? Well, experts suggest that ‘fat’ has become the new ‘norm’.
It’s no secret that the UK has one of the highest rates of childhood obesity in Europe. With childhood obesity on the rise, adult obesity has also become more normalised within society. The NHS Health Survey for England 2019 predicts that 75% of people aged 45-74 in England are overweight or obese, with men more likely to be overweight or obese than women.
On many levels, pet obesity is not so dissimilar to human obesity. The top contributors to both dog obesity and human obesity are lack of exercise and overindulgence of treats.
As humans, we’re in control of how much we’re eating and the number of calories in those foods. Dogs, on the other hand, will simply eat what they are given. This places a huge responsibility on us – their owners – to ensure their daily intake does not exceed the suggested requirements for a dog of their age and size. Every pet food packet depicts a recommended intake based on a pet’s weight, their activity levels and their life stage, but if you’re unsure make sure to seek professional advice.
Overfeeding isn’t the only problem when it comes to indulgence; the other is table scraps. Approximately 23% of owners feed their pets table scraps on a regular basis, which vets deem to be one of the leading factors linked to obesity. Table scraps (human food) are inappropriate for dogs as they’re likely to be high in sugar, fat, salt and energy content. Even a small portion probably contains way over your dog’s recommended intake! Instead of table scraps, reward your pooch with safe dog treats.
In terms of exercise, it’s all about maintaining a routine. Even if your schedule is hectic, you should still be able to find time for your pup. According to PDSA, 16% of dogs are walked less than once a day and 1% are never walked at all. Without their daily walk or playtime, your dog’s fitness level will soon decrease and they may even gain a few pounds. This will make it harder to re-establish a routine in the long term.
Without adequate exercise, your dog’s body shape may change. This is a key indicator of obesity, however, can be difficult to notice depending on the age and breed of the dog. For example, if your dog is still fairly young, you may mistake these changes for growth.
Likewise, it’s natural for your dog’s appearance to mature as they reach their final years. Even the most attentive of owners can have a hard time spotting the warning signs. Not only this, but owners are often too smitten with their lovable friends to realise. According to the PFMA, 68% of owners believe that their pet is exactly the right size. However, given that over half of the nation’s dogs are overweight, we can assume each owner is bias.
Regardless, if you’ve done your research and have a feeling that your dog may be overweight, their ribs, back and tummy are often giveaway features. This is because they’re the body parts most prone to showing excess fat. Your dog’s tummy, for example, will bulge out and sag downwards, and may even wobble when they move.
Of course, professional advice is always the best option. In order to detect any changes in your dog’s physical appearance, you should schedule regular vet appointments. During these appointments, their weight, size and physical changes will be recorded and your vet will be able to voice any concerns along with suitable actions. If the vet is worried, they’ll be able to issue you a weight loss programme to get your dog back into shape. Your bespoke weight loss programme may consist of strict intake allowances or specific exercise routines.
However, weight loss programmes should be viewed as a last resort. If you can prevent the problem, you’re already one step ahead. Through plenty of exercise, portion control and weight monitoring, you’ll be able to notice any physical or behavioural changes and introduce suitable measures.
Knowing when to get involved could avoid your dog developing further health conditions. There are various dangerous health risks linked to obesity in dogs which every owner should be aware of, such as:
Dogs carrying extra pounds of weight place more demand on the organs in their bodies, meaning their body is forced to work twice as hard just to get by. When their organs are overloaded, disease or even death may follow. Research demonstrates that overweight dogs face a reduced lifespan. It has been proven dogs fed to lean condition from early puppyhood through to adulthood can enjoy up to 2 years more healthy, active years than their overweight counterparts.
Preventing obesity is one of the kindest things that you – as an owner – can do to ensure a lifetime of happy memories with your pup. For more information, visit:
K9 Cover offer specialist insurance for dogs.