Obesity in Dogs

Prevalence of Obesity in Dogs Examined by Australian Veterinary Practices and the Risk Factors Involved

Reference = McGreevy, P.D. et al. (2005) Prevalence of Obesity in Dogs Examined by Australian Veterinary Practices and the Risk Factors Involved. Veterinary Record. 156: 695-702. 

  • 52 veterinary practices filled out questionnaires providing data for 2661 dogs. 33.5% were overweight and 7.6% were obese (combined 41.1%). Approximately half the dogs were female and 74.7% of all dogs were neutered
  • Rural dogs at more risk of obesity than urban dogs (potentially due to more readily available food and expected independence of exercise which isn’t necessarily happening)
  • Sex and neutering were risk factors as influenced by breed
  • Prevalence of obesity increased with age up to about 10 and then declined
  • Obesity has been associated with CV and musculoskeletal diseases (Fettman et al. 1997) reducing length and quality of dogs life
  • Other associated conditions are irritability, respiratory distress, decline in general well-being and reduced human-animal bond due to lack of interest to play and exercise (Anderson & Lewis 1980; Butterwick 2000)
  • Prevalemce of obesity in dogs observed in other studies between 22.4 and 40%
  • Indoor living, inactivity, middle age, being neutered, mixed breeding and certain dietary factors (fed scraps) associated with being overweight (Scarlett et al. 1994)
  • Unclear on whether multiple dog households are less likely to become obese, both increased opportunities to play and feed have been identified in other research
  • Neutered dogs more likely to become obese (Edney and Smith 1986) likely due to reduced metabolic rate
  • Incidence increases with age due to reduced metabolic rate and activity (Anderson and Lewis 1980)
  • Breeds with higher risk of obesity include: Cocker Spaniel, Labrador, Coliies, Longhaired Dachshund, Shetland Sheepdog, Cairn Terrier, Bassett Hound, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Beagle (Mason 1970; Edney and Smith 1986)
  • Australian Workin Dog = 375 (53.1% of which OW/obese); Gundog = 324 (55.2% of which OW/obese); Hound =127 (44.9% of which OW/obese); Non-Sporting = 236 (33% of which OW/obese); Terrier = 436 (39.9% of which OW/obese); Toy = 423 (31.9% of which OW/obese); Utility = 238 (41.2% of which OW/obese); Working = 242 (41.7% of which OW/obese); Total = 2549 (42.9% of which OW/obese) – My observation = As expected, toy and non-sporting dogs had the lowest obesity prevalence and working and gundogs had the highest obesity prevalence. Likely due to similar levels of exercise (on average) across breeds meaning naturally highly active dogs (working breeds) are further away from meeting their energy demands than naturally less active breeds (toy and non-sporting), both of which are still below targets indicated by high prevalence as a whole anyway.

Association of Expiratory Airway Dysfunction with Marked Obesity in Healthy Adult Dogs

Reference = Bach, J.F. et al. (2007) Association of Expiratory Airway Dysfunction with Marked Obesity in Healthy Adult Dogs. American Journal of Veterinarian Research, 68(6): 670-675.

  • Obesity appeared to cause airflow limitation during the expiratory phase of breathing hyperpnea (increased depth and rate of breathing)
  • Suggests that flow limitation is dynamic and likely appears in the distal rather than proximal portions of airways. Although, further studies are needed to identify exact locations and understand if obesity is linked to exercise intolerance
  • Other research revealing that obesity in dogs can lead to increased incidence of orthopaedic disease, shortened lifespan and risk of death resulting from pancreatitis (inflammation of pancreas)
  • Linked (in humans) to increased risk of diabetes mellitus, hypertension (abnormally high blood pressure) development and negative impact of CV and pulmonary function, so attempting to find similarities in respiratory function in dogs
  • 36 dogs studied (28 Labradors, 7 Golden Retrievers and 1 Chesapeake-Bay)
  • Possible that increased inflammation could contribute to airway inflammation and subsequently airway restrictions
  • Adiponectin has been seen to be negatively correlated with obesity in dogs

Risk Factors for Obesity in Dogs in France

Reference = Colliard, L. et al. (2006) Risk Factors for Obeesity in Dogs in France. American Society for Nutrition. J. Nutr. 136: 1951S-1954S.

  • A working definition of obesity suggested as an excess of 15% over ideal body weight
  • Prevalence of obesity in dogs and humans is on the increase. Previous studies showing between 18 and 44% of dogs are overweight or obese
  • Studies suggesting that risk factors for obesity can include: female gender, neutering, age, breeds and dietary factors
  • A French survey of 180 dog owners reported 20% of dogs were considered obese by their owner. Although a study has shown that one third of owners underestimate their dogs body condition
  • Sampled 616 dogs finding 38% to be overweight or obese, 56.6% found to be ideal body condition
  • Significant risk factors found for overweight dogs were gender, neutering, dogs age and the retriever breeds
  • Supprted previous findings that owners underestimate their dogs body condition compared with vets assessment. Although owners appear to correctly estimate weight
  • Approximately one third of dogs receiving home prepared food or mixture of home prepared and commercial food
  • Feeding of extra food was widespread and increased with dogs age
  • Major risk factors found being female gender, neutered, age and retriever breed

The Effects of Weight Loss on Adipokines and Markers of Inflammation in Dogs

Reference = Wakshlag, J.J. et al. (2011) The Efects of Weight Loss on Adipokines and Markers of Inflammation in Dogs. British Journal of Nutrition. 106: S11-S14.

  • Evidence suggests adipose tissue-derived adipokines (secreted from adipose tissue into systemic circulation) induce mild inflammation and may play a role in insulin resistance associated with diabetes
  • 25 dogs tested before and after weight loss programme using inflammation indicators
  • Medians for inflammation indicators decreased significantly after weight loss
  • Serum adipokine samples showed dramatic decreases after weight loss
  • Data suggests weight loss can decrease chronic inflammation, however implications of this decrease are not well understood in dogs (not a bad thing, just a consideration as cannot fully conclude same benefits of things between dogs and humans)
  • Above point due to potential of relatively constant serum adiponectin (protein hormone modulating glucose regulation and fatty acid oxidisation) concentrations in dogs that needs to be studied further
  • Estimates in US dog population consistently show 35-40% of dogs overweight to obese making obesity the number one health concern in canine companions
  • Research suggesting adipose releasing variety of adipokines that drive inflammatory response exacerbating many disease processes
  • Investigations shown obesity in dogs show mild insulin resistance
  • Chronic inflammation and adipokines have been assessed in human obesity and weight loss showing decrease in pro-inflammatory adipokines and increase in insulin-sensitising hormone (adiponectin). These changes correlate with health benefits including decreased CVD risk and improved insulin sensitivity. Although CVD is low in dogs, previous study showing improved sinful in sensitivity
  • Chronic inflammation associated with obesity exists in dogs with weight loss decreasing this inflammation

Vet Says Owners Should Exercise With Their Dogs Based on Specific Needs to Prevent Obesity

Source = Kansas State University

  • Obesity is a big problem in pets and exercising helps keep the dogs weight down
  • They require an outlet to relieve energy or destructive behaviour may develop
  • All dogs apparently require different levels of exercise, not forgetting that all dogs need an adequate amount
  • The following are general guidelines: Larger dogs have higher energy needs, smaller dogs less in comparison; Ideally dogs should get out twice daily (15-60 minutes); Back yard exercise isn’t enough, dogs require continuous aerobic exercise with few breaks; Jack Russell Terriers for instance may be small, but have a lot of energy, therefore more exercise is required; Medium to large dogs typically provide for good long distance running; Medium dogs especially herding breeds are excellent at agility activities; Retrievers tend to really enjoy fetch
  • Dogs also require mental exercise (e.g. Border Collies), so exercises like hiding objects or chasing laser lights are recommended
  • Make sure dog is in shape before undergoing long or intense workouts. Build them up gradually
  • Be careful with hard surfaces if dogs aren’t used to running on them (i.e. Previously only ever in garden) as pads can get torn up
  • Young dogs and particularly large breeds shouldn’t go on long runs until 12-15 months of age
  • For more information follow the URL http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090908125132.htm

Education and Dog Friendly Neighbourhoods Could Tackle Obesity

Source = Westgarth, C. et al.(2014) How Might We Increase Physical Activity Through Dog Walking?: A Comprehensive Review of Dog Walking Correlates 

  • Estimated that 40% of owners don’t take their dogs on walks, almost a quarter of households in the UK own a dog
  • Liverpool University recommend investing in dog owner education and facilities to target problems such as obesity in pets and owners
  • Dog owners have a varied understanding of how much exercise their dog needs thus affecting how much they took their dog for a walk
  • Many owners are worried about their dogs behaviour and can be embarrassed to take it to the park for a walk because of how it might act – but this bad behaviour may actually be caused because of the lack of walks, resulting in boredom and frustration
  • For more info follow the URL www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140826100849.htm

Like Owner, Like Dog: One Third of U.S Dogs Are Obese, Cats Also Suffer

Source = Provided by Virginia Tech 

  • Prevalence of obese dogs between 22 and 40%
  • Obesity in pets mirrors that of humans, as do the reasons for it
  • Reasons and remedies seem to be the same across species
  • Decreased physical activity, age and increased caloric intake are major causes
  • Genetics are another factor: Labradors, Beagles and Cocker Spaniels among breeds more prone to obesity
  • Obese dogs predisposed to develop diabetes mellitus
  • Also suffer from reduced stamina, decreased heat tolerance, increased dermatological conditions, decreased immune function and multiple musculoskeletal and orthopaedic problems
  • Important to introduce monitored and calorie restricted diets and exercise regiment
  •  Massively improved quality of life with pet weight maintenance
  • For more info follow the URL www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080220221008.htm

Quality of Life of Obese Dogs Improves When They Lose Weight

Source = German, A.J. et al. (2011) Quality of Life is Reduced in Obese Dogs but Improves After Successful Weight Loss

  • Estimated that a third of the UK dog population is obese
  • Can lead to other serious diseases like Arthritis, Heart Disease and Diabetes
  • Quality of life (factors including: Vitality, Emotional disturbance and Pain) improved for dogs that successfully lost weight (improved vitality, reduced emotional disturbance and pain)
  • Dogs failing to lose weight had worse quality of life at the end of testing than those dogs that lost weight (worse vitality and higher emotional disturbance)
  • Weight loss keep your dog not only healthy, but happy
  • Need to portion control, increase exercise and implement diets formulated for overweight pets
  • For more info follow the URL www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120221104029.htm