What Causes Obesity in Dogs?

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Obesity is a dangerous condition in both humans and dogs alike, and determining the underlying cause of obesity in your dog is imperative in order to seek the right treatment options and prevent further health complications.

Before you can analyze the causes of obesity in dogs, it is important to understand what obesity is and the symptoms of obesity. With this knowledge in mind, you can work with your veterinarian to determine the cause of obesity in your dog and select the appropriate treatment option.

Below is an introduction to obesity in dogs and the potential symptoms and causes of obesity, as well as common treatment options.

What is Obesity?

Obesity is an excessive amount of weight on the body. It is a nutritional disease that is characterized by the presence of an excessive amount of body fat. There are certain environmental factors that play a role in the development of obesity in dogs. If a dog is being overfed, is not properly exercised or does not have the ability to exercise, or is genetically predisposed to gain weight, then he will be more prone to becoming obese.

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Obesity carries with it a number of significant health risks, including a shorter lifespan. Excess body fat weighs on the body and throws natural processes and functions out of their normal routine. Excess body fat primarily affects the digestive system and organs, respiratory organs, and the bones and joints.

Obesity is an extremely common condition in dogs of all ages and breeds, but it is most prevalent among middle-aged dogs between the ages of five and ten. Dogs that are kept indoors and dogs that have been neutered are also more at risk to becoming obese over the course of their lifetime.

Symptoms of Obesity in Dogs

If you believe your dog may be becoming obese, it is important to keep a watchful eye for the development of any of the tell-tale signs of obesity. The most common symptoms of obesity are weight gain and the presence of an excessive amount of body fat. Each time a dog visits the veterinarian, their weight is recorded.

Often veterinarians will alert you if there is a significant increase in your dog’s weight between visits, but you may also be able to tell by physical appearance alone or the increased weight when attempting to lift or carry your dog. If your veterinarian assesses your dog’s body condition and notes an above-ideal score, they will alert you. Dogs that have become obese may also be unable or unwilling to exercise.

Causes of Dog Obesity

In order to determine the right treatment option for your dog, it is vital that the underlying cause of the obesity be accurately diagnosed. Each time a dog eats food, he is consuming food that will converted into energy. When the energy intake is imbalanced with the amount of energy being used, the dog is likely to gain weight as a result.

In addition to this imbalance, old age is also sometimes a culprit of obesity as a dog may encounter more difficulty when attempting to exercise because of bone or joint pain. As dogs become older, they metabolize food more slowly as well, which can lead to weight gain.

Another common cause for obesity in dogs is unhealthy eating habits. If a dog is frequently given high-calorie meals, fed multiple times per day in large quantities, or given frequent treats, then it will be at a much higher risk for developing obesity.

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Other common causes of obesity include hypothyroidism, hyperadrenocorticism, and insulinoma. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland in the neck does not make enough of the hormone called thyroxine, which controls the metabolism.

Hyperadrenocorticism is a condition that is also sometimes called Cushing’s disease in dogs. When a dog develops Cushing’s disease, his body overproduces cortisol. Insulinoma is also known as pancreatic cancer in dogs and is a type of malignant neoplasm (fast growing cancer cell) of the beta cells that comprise the pancreas. These beta cells secrete insulin.

Treatment Options for Obesity in Dogs

When attempting to treat obesity in dogs, your veterinarian will often develop a plan to reduce overall body weight through weight loss and then maintain the healthy weight over the duration of the dog’s lifespan.

Often, this is accomplished through a decreased caloric intake and an increased amount of exercise, similar to humans. For dogs that have a type of hormone disorder or cancer, your veterinarian may prescribe a medication to control the hormone levels or assess surgical options.

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