Obesity is the No. 1 nutritional disease affecting pets today, Dr. Nancy Chilla-Smith, an associate veterinarian at PAWSitive Veterinary, says. Risk factors would include an overweight owner, whether the dogs live in a house or apartment, breed, age, and other diseases. Just like humans, “animals’ metabolism slows as they age, so if the owners continue to feed them same amount the pet will gain weight,” she adds.
One of the two major reasons for the problem is that many owners think that a chubby pet is a happy pet and they want to reward their pet for being good or cute. Food is a great reward.
“I hate to say also that many overweight owners have overweight pets, so it is due to the owners’ own lack of activity that the pet also lacks activity,” Dr. Chilla adds. “Along the lines of rewards, many pets – especially small breed dogs – will only eat what their owners eat. But human food tends to be higher in fat and calories.
Another reason is owners’ busy schedules. “[They] don't take the pets out as often as they should so the pets gain weight, especially in our harsh winters,” Dr. Chilla says.
Obesity can become a life-threatening condition. As with humans, predisposes to many diseases are diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, arthritis. “When a fat lab comes in at 9 years old with severe arthritis and weighs 100 lbs., it is much harder to get that weight off,” she adds. The pain limits their weight loss; the arthritis worsens and becomes a cause of euthanasia.
The pooches should follow a strict diet, Dr. Chilla says. They should be fed as directed, and not given human food (or not as a daily thing) and treats should be given in a controlled manner. “All dogs are prone to gaining weight if they are given the chance.”
But genetics do play a role and, just like with some people and ethnicities, some breeds tend to deposit fat more and have slower metabolisms.