Obesity is an excess of body fat that is enough to impair health, welfare and quality of life. The main cause is from eating too much or not exercising enough, although some diseases can cause obesity.
Obesity is a serious welfare issue in pets because it can cause a lot of unnecessary suffering and can be extremely disabling, not to mention being entirely preventable.
Several factors make obesity more likely in dogs. Certain breeds have a higher risk, while neutered dogs are more at risk. It increases with age and there are links between obese pets and dogs that do not get regular exercise.
The risks of obesity
Obesity can cause serious health and welfare problems, and make existing problems worse. This can reduce the length and quality of a pet’s life.
It is linked to serious conditions like diabetes, heart disease, respiratory distress, high blood pressure and certain cancers. Obesity is also likely to affect a pet’s ability to perform natural behaviours (e.g. exercise normally).
The best way to prevent obesity is by giving the right amount of the right food, along with plenty of exercise. Always read feeding instructions on dog food, and weigh out the appropriate amounts if in doubt. Be careful with treats and be sure to adjust meal amounts accordingly.
There are a few simple checks you can do if you think your dog may be obese. You should be able to see and feel the outline of your pet’s ribs without excess fat covering them. You should be able to see and feel your pet’s waist and it should be clearly visible when viewed from above. Your pet’s belly should be tucked up when viewed from the side.
If your pet does not pass these checks, or if you are in any doubt, consult your vet. They will be able to provide a health check and if necessary recommend a weight reduction programme.