Canine Obesity is the most common nutritional health problem in dogs. Predominantly caused by an imbalance between energy intake and expenditure, a state of positive energy balance results in excess white adipose tissue which consequently leads to detrimental pathology.
Determining if your dog is overweight?
Alongside monitoring the dogs weight, a subjective evaluation of body condition can be undertaken using a series of visual and tactile indicators to assign a body condition score (BCS).
There are three key areas of the body to evaluate, the ribs, waist and abdominal tuck.
Image 1 – Body Condition Scoring Chart for Medium Dogs
Effect of Obesity on Health and Welfare
Numerous health issues have been linked to obesity in human and veterinary medicine, including heart and respiratory disease, pancreatitis, diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure and osteoarthritis.
Alongside health consequences canine obesity also has huge welfare implications, with shortened lifespan and reduced quality of life.
Obesity Impact on the Musculoskeletal System
Osteoarthritis, cruciate ligament tears or ruptures, hip and elbow dysplasia and IVDD all have an increased risk and association with canine obesity.
Both mechanical and biochemical factors link obesity and OA. Greater compressive forces within the joints and more stress on joint surfaces (cartilage and bone) alters canine biomechanics affecting the rate of OA development and progression.
Fat cells also secrete hormones and other chemicals that both cause and enhance inflammation in the body and in joints further impacting the musculoskeletal system.
Obesity results in excess pressure on joints and consequently pain or discomfort and increases the risk of injury, resulting in a reduction in mobility. This lack of activity then leads to further weight gain and the cycle continues. Weight loss should be considered a key component in treatment of orthopaedic and neurological conditions in dogs.
Physical Therapy combined with calorie-restricted weight loss is more successful in combating obesity but also maintains muscle mass, strengthens and helps to protect against injury.