Tag Archives: obesity

The ‘miracle’ of weight loss

I caught up with an acquaintance this week who had asked me a while ago for a recommendation of a vet who could give her a second opinion on her dog’s heart condition.  Her Chihuahua was on many different medications for heart problems and she was not happy with her health or progress.

So I asked her how things were going…and she told me that she had managed to get her dog off all medications.

The miracle cure?  ‘We’ve taken one kilo (2.2 pounds) off of her’

Wow.  A Chihuahua is a very small dog and so a kilo of extra weight is definitely classed as obesity.  Here’s what an obese Chihuahua looks like:

An obese Chihuahua

An obese Chihuahua

It is in your dog’s best interest to manage their weight and keep it in the healthy range.  This is usually achieved with a combination of exercise and a proper diet.

Obesity shortens lives!

Pet obesity at the molecular level

A University of Illinois research team led by Professor Kelly Swanson has published research which describes how nutrients and biological compounds in foods can affect gene expression in animals.

The research will help to understand the underlying reasons for obesity in pets.  Professor Swanson explains that obesity has its roots in the domestication of dogs.  Because dogs no longer hunt or compete for their food and are speyed or neutered (so not having to mate),  the typical dog has much smaller energy requirements than its forefathers.

The research team explains that when more energy (food) is consumed than is required, it is stored as fat in the adipose tissue (fat tissue).  Adipose tissue secretes more than 50 substances known as adipokines, which are cell-signaling molecules that are involved in metabolism, immunity and inflammation.

In obese dogs, levels of the adipokine leptin increases while the levels of the  adipokine adiponectin decreases.

The researchers aim to study obesity at the molecular level, so they can help to prevent it happening.

Source:  University of Illinois media statement

Watching your dog’s waistline

Body condition score

Take a look at the chart above.  It shows you how to spot ideal body condition on a dog.  Earlier this week, I was speaking with someone and she commented that she felt Daisy was too thin.  In fact, Daisy had just been to the veterinarian for her health check and was declared to be in ideal condition with an excellent body score.

The problem is that the person speaking with me owns several obese and overweight dogs.  She knows her dogs must lose weight, but she has become so accustomed to seeing an overweight dog that a dog in good condition looks too thin to her.

I work with dogs who need to lose weight by recommending exercise programmes combined with making the dog comfortable through massage, acupressure and laser therapies.  Dogs don’t get fat overnight; their weight loss programmes take a bit of time too.

Over these holidays, please don’t overfeed your dog.  And take the time to review the body conditions listed above.  If your dog isn’t in ideal condition, what do you need to do to get them there?

An obesity clinic for pets

The Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine based at Tufts University in Grafton, Massachusetts has opened the first obesity clinic for pets in the United States.

Studies have suggested that up to 60 percent of dogs and cats are obese or overweight.   However, a recent survey of client-owned animals at the Foster Hospital, one of the busiest teaching hospitals for pets in the US,  suggests that that figure may be higher at 70 percent.

Dr Deborah Linder, who will oversee the clinic, says that the clinic will employ sound, research-proven principles in assisting pets to lose weight.

‘We hope to effect change in the obesity epidemic among companion animals.’
Source:  Tufts University media statement

Quality of life improves when obese dogs shed excess weight

Researchers at the University of Liverpool have published the results of a study into the quality of life of obese dogs in The Veterinary Journal.

The researchers tracked various quality of life indicators with the owners of 50 dogs who were classified as obese.  These dogs were of various breeds and a mixture of males and females.   The same questionnaire was repeated once the dogs went through a weight loss programme (for the dogs that were successful in losing weight, and those that were not).

Photo courtesy of University of Liverpool

The vitality scores for the dogs that lost weight increased and their scores for emotional disturbance and pain decreased. The more body fat that the dogs lost, the greater their improvement in vitality.

Some people may think ‘these results are a no-brainer’ but in veterinary and other clinical medicine fields, the norm is ‘evidence-based medicine.’  That is, practitioners like veterinarians want results from research that is measurable and defensible when applying or recommending treatments.

Since obesity is linked to problems with the heart, arthritis and other conditions, research likes this helps to underpin the importance of the healthy weight message.

The same basic principles for weight loss in dogs apply to humans:  use portion control, increase exercise and activity, and eat healthy foods.