Your dog’s weight problem is probably less about what you feed him, and more about the relationship that you have with your dog. That relationship could be the difference between a long healthy life for your pet, or a short painful, disease ridden life.
Obese Dogs Are Not Happy Dogs
Unfortunately obesity in dogs is on the rise and has reached epidemic levels. As human obesity rises so does obesity in dogs. We have reached a point where dogs more than half of the dogs around the world are classified as overweight.
We are seeing some of the same diseases in dogs that we see in humans. And even though our dogs don’t have to deal with the same social shame as humans there is serious physical and emotional damage. The medical conditions are everything from diabetes to degenerative joint diseases.
Many dog owners don’t mind that their precious fur baby has gained “a little weight”. They say that it just gives them more of their pet to love. However, this attitude means that there will be less time to love their pet. A study, “Effects of Diet Restriction On Life Span And Age-Related Changes In Dogs” by the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, proved that Labrador Retrievers who were not obese, but only 10-20% overweight lived 2 years less than Labrador’s that were an ideal weight.
Other studies show that obesity takes an emotional toll on our dogs. Being overweight affects the happiness, energy, and emotional well being of our pets. But the great news is that all of this can improve greatly if your dog loses some weight.
Just as humans are struggling to overcome obesity our dogs are struggling too. In some studies dogs are only successful in losing weight on a weight-loss program about 60% of the time.
We Show Our Dogs Love With Food
We have to ask, “What exactly is the problem?” Are we feeding our dogs too many high calorie foods? Are we not allowing our dogs to get enough quality exercise? Could it be the genetics of our dog? Or is it that we are simply overfeeding our dogs because they look so cute when begging for a treat? Have our dogs trained us to overfeed them? The real answer is that it is a little of all of these factors.
Traditional diet and exercise may not be the key to weight loss for our dogs. However, there are still many vets who concentrate on traditional diet and exercise programs instead of encouraging dog owners to adhere to the diet programs, and discover the reason that dogs have become obese. Unlike humans who can generally lose weight simply by sticking to a diet of their choice our animals cannot. Your dog is not feeding himself.
In veterinary medicine it is now being understood that the key to weight loss for our pets has more to do with the dog-human relationship. Some vets are now concentrating on whether pet owners are ready to make the necessary changes to over come the challenges of reducing their dog’s weight.
Because pet owners now see themselves as more of parents to their dogs, and view their dogs as part of the family it creates a deep connection between dog owners and their dogs. The family dog is no longer just a dog, but a member of the family, and some dog owners have been excessive in expressing their love of their dog through food.
Creating A Better Relationship
It is going to require a concerted effort from psychologist, doctors, and vets working together to help dog owners begin to manage the obesity in their pets.
We are seeing an increase in veterinary schools and hospitals the staffing of social workers to help vets with understanding the bond between humans and their animals, and how this bond affects the pet’s healthcare. A social worker can help a pet owner to understand why they do some of the things they do when overfeeding their pet, and help them find other ways to connect without having a negative impact on their pet’s health.
Some vets are now using programs that address both weight loss for humans and their dogs. By participating in a weight loss program together it will help to strengthen the human-dog bond.