Get fit & combat Canine Obesity

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Dr Ujjwal Kumar De
Being body positive is good, but taking care of your pet’s health is better. Obesity will only lead to health problems in future. So take charge to get fit with your pet and both of you shed off those extra kilos!  –by Dr Babul Rudra Paul, Dr Mithilesh Singh and Dr Ujjwal Kumar De

Canine obesity, a multi-factorial condition, is accumulation of excess white body fat. It has been recognised as an emerging health and well-being problem. A dog is overweight when his weight is 10-20 percent higher than the ideal weight and considered as obese when the weight exceeds 20 percent.

Obesity usually increases with age due to a decrease in metabolism. In young dogs, females are more susceptible to obesity as compared to males. But as the dog gets older, the chances of obesity rise to 40 percent in both males and females. Just like in humans, in canines also obesity brings with itself a lot of health issues – difficulty in breathing, joint pain, diabetes, decreased mobility, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, increases risk of neoplasia (tumour growth), osteoarthritis, hyperthyroidism, hyperthermia, etc. Their quality of life is compromised. Obesity can also lead to heat intolerance, respiratory problems, and prolonged recovery period after surgery in canines.

Lookout for signs and symptoms
Weight gain is the primary sign of obesity. On clinical examination, there will be no palpable ribcage, excessive body fat and distended abdomen. The dog generally shows lethargy, unwillingness to exercise, difficulty in breathing. Grooming also becomes a difficulty in obese dog.

Know the risk factors
There are numerous risk factors that attribute obesity in canine. Older dogs become more susceptible to obesity than young dogs. Talking about breeds, Labrador Retrievers, Shelties, Dachshunds, Golden Retrievers, Pugs, Cocker Spaniels, Pomeranians, and Boxers are more prone to obesity. Neutering or spaying can results in weight gain of both males and females because sex hormones have influence on appetite, exercise, and also cause loss of lean body mass.

The imbalance between the feeding and optimum exercise is also responsible for obesity. High calorie-dense food, table scraps, number of meals, quality of food are the attributing dietary factors for obesity in dogs. Dogs staying indoors for maximum time remain at higher risk of obesity.

Weight loss and its management
If your pet is obese, it is best that you take the help of your vet to make a diet chart. Also gradually increase his activity level with more exercise or walks to help with the weight loss process.

Weight loss goals are usually set at 1-2 percent per week to reach an average 15-20 percent weight loss over a span of 12 to 18 weeks.

A healthy outside starts from within: Low-fat high-protein food will help with weight loss and management for your pets. High fiber and protein promotes healthy metabolism. Green beans and crunchy carrots are a good alternative to treat. Homemade diets are not recommended because they often do not meet the daily requirements of vitamins and minerals for canines.

A little help of supplements for greater good: You can talk to your vet about health and fitness supplements for your pet’s weight loss journey. Supplements like omega-3 fatty acids and L-cartinine promote weight loss and lean muscle mass.

Limit treats and table scraps: It is important to remove table scraps and treats. When you use treats for training, look for low fat, low calorie treat and limit the amount.

Active & healthy—two sides of the same coin: Apart from diet management, regular exercise is critical to ensure a healthy body weight of dogs. There are a variety of training choices, including 30 minutes a day of leashing (this can be split into 10 minutes), outdoor games, running, swimming, etc.

Canine obesity is a multi-factorial complex condition which is easier to prevent than treat. Successful pet weight management strategies include diet, exercise and understanding of the interaction between human and animal. Fitness is a lifestyle habit, both for you and your pet. Make sure you make healthy choices for yourself and your pet for efficient weight management.

(Dr Babul Rudra Paul, Dr Mithilesh Singh and Dr Ujjwal Kumar De are from ICAR – Indian Veterinary Research Institute (ICAR-IVRI), Izzatnagar, Uttar Pradesh)

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