What are the main causes of obesity and weight gain in dogs?

The causes of obesity and weight gain in dogs are not unlike what we need to watch out for ourselves. From poor diet and overeating to lack of exercise and chronic illness, there are numerous culprits that contribute to unhealthy weight gain in dogs. Some of the more common causes include:

Diet – often as pet owners we don’t always have a true reflection of what our dog’s dietary needs are. How often have you felt a tug at your heart strings every time your pooch gazes at you with those soulful puppy dog eyes and you think ‘oh just a little treat what harm can it do’ or you feed him/her more often than is actually necessary because you think he/she is not getting enough?

It’s important to remember that our dogs’ nutritional and dietary needs are different to our own. Did you know that small dogs (who are generally not very active) only need to consume 185 to 370 calories a day while dogs who weigh between 30 – 40kg need around 1 100 and 1 700 calories a day. If you are unsure how much food your dog needs or which type of food is best speak to your vet for further guidance. There are many food options available to ensure your pooch gets the nutrition he/she needs from raw and cooked fresh food to dry pellets.

Lack of exercise – the amount of exercise a dog needs to be generally fit and maintain a healthy weight depends on the breed, size and age. That said, a good rule of thumb is to aim for 20 to 60 minutes of daily activity for your dog. If your dog hasn’t been active in quite some time, don’t overdo it by dragging him or a 5km run! It’s important to take it in steps and build on your dog’s fitness levels slowly.

Cushing’s disease – dog’s get Cushing’s results when their adrenal glands produce too much cortisol. One of the symptoms of Cushing’s disease is weight gain alongside hair loss, a pot-belly, heavy panting and extreme hunger and thirst. If you notice any of these symptoms consult with your vet for further guidance.

Hypothyroidism – weight gain can also be attributed to dogs having an overactive thyroid, which is a common problem especially amongst certain breeds such as Doberman pinschers and golden retrievers. Other symptoms can include hair loss, lethargy and an uncharacteristic resistance to exercise, weakness, and more prone to infections. If you notice any of these symptoms, consult with your vet for an accurate diagnosis.

Genetics – genetics can also play a role in dogs’ propensity for gaining weight, as some breeds are more prone to overweight problems than others. These include beagles, basset hounds, American cocker spaniels, Labrador retrievers, dachshunds, rough collies, Cairn terriers and Shetland sheepdogs.

Spraying/Neutering – dogs that have been sprayed or neutered are also more likely to struggle with weight gain due to reduced energy output and metabolism.

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