If you've had your dog for a few years and lately you've noticed that he or she has been gaining a bit of weight, there's usually no cause for concern, but a proactive approach to your dog's overall wellness is key here. Obesity in dogs can become a major problem, so just to be safe, make an appointment for her to have a thorough checkup with your vet to rule out any other problems, such as thyroid disease.
If need be the vet can recommend a moderate diet so your dog can lose weight gradually without feeling deprived or hungry. Although being a little overweight is usually not a problem, obesity in dogs is. That's when the health problems usually start, because obesity significantly increases your dog's risk of these five health problem that are all related to being above the ideal weight.
1. Hypothyroidism is the number one cause of obesity in dogs. This is the main test your vet will perform and if necessary, your dog will be prescribed a thyroid medication very similar to the type that humans take.
2. Many dogs are overweight because they simply eat too much and do not get enough exercise to burn off the additional calories. Therefore, exercise is often a vital piece of the puzzle when Fido begins displaying signs and symptoms of obesity.
3. Diabetes is another condition that can cause obesity in dogs. As the dog becomes heavier, it can also lead to diabetes, so having the dog's insulin levels checked is always a good idea before you put him or her on a diet.
4. Some medications can add weight to your dog, for instance if they are on a regular steroid drug for certain conditions, this can cause your dog to put on a few pounds.
5. As with people, when your dog ages, it's metabolism slows down, and if it is eating the same amount of food without added exercise, it can soon become overweight.
Many well-meaning veterinarians will recommend a "lite" food, but often this can be more of a problem because these foods are typically grain-heavy. Your overweight dog actually needs a high-protein diet with little to no carbohydrates.
You will need to begin to exercise your dog daily, but in the beginning don't overdo it, especially if your dog is not used to any vigorous exercise. When dogs are not conditioned, they can easily become so exhausted that they pass out. Watch for excessive and heavy panting, if you see any discomfort, get your dog to a cooler place and reduce the amount of exercise.
Remember, that for dogs that should weigh 10 pounds, having just three or four extra pounds can actually mean they are obese. Therefore, the best line of defense is to keep your dog active and make sure he or she is eating a healthy meat-based diet free of fillers or byproducts. Regular blood tests will also catch early signs of thyroid disease.