Health Risks Of Obesity In Dogs

Health risks of obesity in dogs
Health risks of obesity in dogs

Did you know obesity is the leading cause of death in dogs? Like humans, the health risks of obesity in dogs have dangerous symptoms and can lead to an early death — as much as two and a half years in dogs.

Extra weight, and adverse health conditions, are causing your dog uncomfortableness and pain while shortening their lifespan by as much as two and a half years.

Determining if your dog is overweight and spotting the first signs of these conditions can help prevent serious long-term issues. A regular Vet check-up should always be your first defense against health risks and disease.

While diet and exercise are the typical culprits of dog obesity, underlying health conditions like hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease may be causing your dog to gain excessive weight.

This article will explain the health risks of obesity in dogs, including the diseases and health risks obesity can cause. It also discusses ways to identify if your dog is overweight or suffering from obesity.

What are the health risks of obesity in dogs?

  1. Osteoarthritis
  2. Diabetes
  3. Heart disease
  4. High blood pressure
  5. Kidney Disease
  6. Cancer
  7. Liver Disease

health risks of obesity in dogs. A golden retriever lays on the vet table while they perform tests

Health risks of obesity in dogs

Osteoarthritis.

In a study of 504 dogs, a shocking 188 — or 37.3% — were diagnosed with osteoarthritis. While genetics has the most influence on your dog’s arthritis risk, a healthy, active lifestyle and weight can help to keep it away.

Since many dogs instinctively hide their pain until severe, it’s essential to keep a close eye on your dog’s behaviors, especially when getting up from a long nap or jumping.

Your dog is at a higher risk of osteoarthritis if they are a large breed, obese, senior, overweight, and previously injured joints or ligaments.

Signs of osteoarthritis (also known as Degenerative Joint Disease) in your dog:

  • Difficulty getting up
  • Limping
  • Stiffness
  • Changes in behavior and irritability
  • Wincing when touched or pet
  • Weight gain
  • Accidents in the house
  • Declining muscle mass

Tests to determine osteoarthritis:

  • X-ray
  • Physical examination of motion and joints.

No medicine or exercise can reverse osteoarthritis since it’s a degenerative disease. However, joint health supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin can reduce inflammation and pain, helping to promote more cushion in the joints.

Diabetes.

Diabetes is a disease where the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin or the body can’t use it properly. Low levels of insulin cause glucose to build up in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy.

Of all the health risks of obesity in dogs, diabetes is the most common. Obese dogs have a 2.6x higher risk of developing diabetes.

Like humans, dogs with diabetes need daily insulin injections and careful monitoring to keep the disease under control.

While common in all ages, most dogs are diagnosed with diabetes at 7-10 years old.

Signs of diabetes in your dog:

  • Increased urination and thirst
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Excessive hunger
  • Cloudy eyes
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Bad breath (ketoacidosis)

Tests to determine diabetes:

  • A physical examination
  • Blood tests
  • Urine tests
  • Fasting glucose test
  • Oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT)

There is no cure for diabetes, but you can manage it with proper treatment. Treatment usually includes daily insulin injections, a special diet, and regular exercise.

Your dog’s blood sugar will need to be monitored closely by you and your vet to ensure the correct insulin dosage.

Heart Disease.

Heart disease is very prevalent in dogs. Besides obesity, many different underlying conditions can cause heart disease, including heart valve degeneration, heart muscle disease, and irregular heart rate.

Signs of heart disease in your dog:

  • Persistent coughing
  • Fainting or collapsing
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Lethargic and sleeping more than normal
  • No or Low appetite

Tests to determine heart disease:

  • X-ray
  • Electrocardiogram (testing for abnormal heartbeat)
  • Echocardiogram (Ultrasound of the heart)
  • Blood Tests

High blood pressure in dogs.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a common condition in dogs. It occurs when the blood force against the arteries’ walls is too high.

Besides obesity, kidney and heart disease are underlying conditions that may cause high blood pressure. 

Signs of high blood pressure in your dog:

  • Excessive panting
  • Restlessness
  • Anxiety
  • Increased urination
  • Frequent accidents in the house
  • Tiredness or lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Nosebleeds
  • Seizures

Tests to determine high blood pressure:

  • A physical examination
  • Blood tests
  • Urinalysis
  • X-rays
  • An electrocardiogram (ECG)

Kidney Disease.

The kidneys are responsible for filtering waste from the blood and maintaining proper fluid levels in the body. Kidney disease occurs when the kidneys are unable to do their job correctly.

Besides obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes are underlying conditions that may cause kidney disease. 

Signs of kidney disease in your dog:

  • Increased urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Bad breath (uremic frost)

Tests to determine kidney disease:

  • A physical examination
  • Blood tests
  • Urinalysis
  • X-rays
  • Kidney biopsy (rarely done)

There is no cure for kidney disease, but you can manage it with proper treatment. Treatment usually includes a special diet, medication, and close monitoring by your vet.

Cancer.

While obesity does not cause cancer, it can increase the risk of certain types of cancer, including bone cancer and mammary cancer.

Signs of cancer in your dog:

  • Lump or mass
  • Sores that don’t heal
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Bad breath

Tests to determine cancer:

  • A physical examination
  • X-rays
  • Ultrasound
  • CT scan or MRI (rarely done)
  • Biopsy

Treatment to manage cancer includes surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

Liver disease.

The liver is responsible for filtering toxins from the blood and maintaining proper fluid levels in the body. Liver disease occurs when the liver is unable to do its job correctly.

High blood pressure and diabetes are contributing factors to liver disease.

Signs of liver disease in your dog:

  • Jaundice (yellowing of the gums, skin, and whites of the eyes)
  • Lethargy
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Bad breath

Tests to determine liver disease:

  • A physical examination
  • Blood tests
  • Urinalysis
  • X-rays
  • Liver biopsy (rarely done)

There is no cure for liver disease, but you can manage it with proper treatment. Treatment includes a special diet, medication, and close monitoring by your vet.

Proper diet to promote weight loss. A mid-sized breed of dog eats with his head completely in the green bowl.

What diet and exercise promote long-term health in your dog?

An estimated 56% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese. Your dog’s exercise and eating habits have a significant role in their health; however, some dog breeds are prone to obesity and other health risks.

Overweight dogs are more likely to develop joint problems. They have a higher risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, respiratory problems, kidney disease, and certain types of cancer.

A study by the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine showed obesity can shorten their lifespan by as much as two and a half years.

What steps should you take to keep your dog healthy?

  1. Feed your dog a well-balanced and nutritious diet.
  2. Track your dog’s daily caloric intake.
  3. Take your dog on daily walks, runs, or to the dog park frequently.
  4. Play with your dog at home twice a day for 15 to 30 minutes.
  5. Switch your dog’s treats to healthy fruits or vegetables, like blueberries, cantaloupe, or carrot sticks.

Final Thoughts

Not all health risks of obesity in dogs have a scary name or condition. Excess weight makes it easier for your dog to overheat and more challenging to breathe correctly.

Age and weight are the two most common characteristics of dogs who suffer from fatty tumors — also known as Lipomas.

If you’re concerned that your dog may be overweight, talk to your veterinarian about your dog’s best diet and exercise plan. 

Helping your dog maintain a healthy weight is one of the best things you can do to promote their long-term health, wellbeing, and happiness.

What health issue is your dog facing? Did this article help you to better understand it? Please share it with friends so you can help others.

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