The facts about dog obesity and will a stroller do more harm then good?
There is a great deal more to pet obesity than just simply over feeding your dog or giving them very lttle exercise. Although this is one of the reasons pets become overweight, there are many other common causes.
It is true that if you push a dog in a pushchair for the rest of it’s life, spoil it with too much food, regular treats and refrain it from doing any walking or exercise it will in fact become overweight and suffer from pet obesity. Dogs, like humans have to exercise and eat well in order to stay a healthy weight for the rest of their lives. And it is the dog owners responsibility to make sure that they take good care of their dog and it’s well being. Many humans have a problem with their own obesity, and these fears can sometimes be transferred to our dogs and other domestic pets.
Humans and domesticated animals are the only species on this earth that suffer from obesity. No other creature has this problem. It is therefore our responsibility as pet owners if our dogs suffer from obesity due to the excessive amounts of food we feed them or we don’t exercise them enough. But there maybe more reasons why a dog’s weight may increase and it may not always be the fault of the owner. Some dogs that do suffer from obesity actually NEED the use of a pet stroller, just like obese immobile humans do. As you will find out, it’s not all black and white.
But before we discuss whether a dog stroller can make your dog overweight or cause obesity, we have to look at ‘pet obesity’ in greater detail.
So what is pet obesity?
When visiting your vet for a regular check up, they will often weigh your dog and if they have become overweight they will then ask you to lessen the amount of food to give your dog until further notice. They know that if you don’t deal with the issue now, the dogs weight will only increase and cause you and your dog problems later. Obesity in dogs is preventable so always make sure you feed your dog the right amount of food per day. Any additional treats or snacks should be to a minimum and be part of the dogs intake of food and calories per day. If you do not know how much food to feed your dog, ask your vet to advise you. All good brands of dog food will have a feeding guide on the packet.
Pet obesity is a major problem in the UK and abroad. It can cause a lot of unnecessary suffering and in some animals obesity can be extremely disabling. If over feeding and irregular exercise happens early on obesity can affect your dog for the rest of their life.
What causes pet obesity?
Obesity also becomes more common in senior dogs because of the normal decrease in a dog’s ability to exercise but the amount of food they eat may stay the same. Bad eating habits, feeding them high calories foods (including human foods), an alternating diet and giving them frequent treats can bring on obesity.
There are also some medical conditions that may cause a dog to become overweight. These other common causes of obesity are:
Do obese dog owners have obese dogs?
I am a dog owner myself and am overweight, and although my dog is of a good weight, the vets always seem to ‘over emphasise’ the need to feed and exercise my dog correctly. It might be me just being panaoid, but I do get the feeling that they worry that I might not be fit due to lack of exercising myself!
Having a dog can help you keep fit too as they always require exercising and walking on a regular basis.
What are the health risks associated with pet obesity?
Obesity can creep up on your dog, especially if you do not attend the vets for regualr check ups. Pet obesity can both cause very serious health and welfare problems, and make any existing problems much worse. One of the worst problems of obesity is that it can reduce the life of your dog, and they only have between 10 to 15 years if they are healthy, so reducing that small time frame is a very saddening fact. Obesity will also reduce the quality of that short life too.
The problems associated with obesity are serious and these potentially dangerous medical conditions include:
How to diagnose obesity in your dog
If a dog is obese, it will have an excess body weight of approximately 10 to 15 percent. Each breed at a certain age will have an ideal body weight and if your dog is 10 to fifteen percent over this your vet will advise you on how to treat it.
Your vet may use a system called ‘body condition scoring’. There are a few different body condition scoring systems being used by vet professionals and dog health experts, but they all follow the same grading, some being more indepth than others. Below are two examples. The first being a standard FIVE point body condition scoring system used for both cats and dogs.
The second example is a little more indepth. Purina researcher Dottie La Flamme DVM, PhD, designed this nine point system to help owners identify potential obesity in their pets. This nine-point grading system defines ideal condition as that in which the dog’s ribs are easily felt and the waist and tuck-up (the belly area between ribcage and rear end) are discernible without being prominent. The dog in ideal condition has a thin layer of fat over the ribs.
The treatment of pet obesity
The diet plan that you will be given will be a diet that is rich in dietary protein and fibre, but low in fat. Dietary protein stimulates metabolism and energy expenditure, along with giving the dog the feeling of fullness, so that they will not feel hungry again shortly after eating. Dietary fibre, on the other hand, contains little energy but stimulates intestinal metabolism and energy use at the same time.
Your vet may even suggest you purchase brands of lower calorie dog food that are low in calories but high in protein. These low calorie foods are reccomended, especially if your dog is very elderly or has trouble exercising.
Increasing your dog’s physical activity level is crucial for successful treatment in obesity. The most common suggestions for dogs are leash walking for at least 15 minutes, twice a day, and playing games such as ‘fetch’.
Your vet will most likely want to be kept up to date with your dogs progress. So expect monthly visits to your vet for regular check ups. During this time your vet can begin to advise you on a life time weight maintenance program once your dog’s ideal body condition score has been achieved.
You will have to carry out this life time diet and exercise plan with full commitment to make sure your dog is at the right weight and in good health.
So will my dog become obese if they use a pet stroller?
A stroller is ideal for situations like visiting the vet, taking very long walks, using them on a busy traffic routes, vacation travelling and recovering from an ilness or injury. But even the most inactive breeds of dogs need exercise, and they can’t get that from the inside of a stroller.
If your dog does have a stroller meant for only occasional use, it should be kept in an area where it is not easily accessible to your dog. Relying too heavily on a pet stroller will only lead your dog to becoming complacent about thier regular exercise and will of course lead to a less healthy dog.
A unhealthy or obese dog will need to use a pet stroller
Too much exercise for an overweight dog can also exacerbate or create hip and ligament problems in addition to their current complaints. It will only make matters worse. Short bouts of a little exercise is ideal at the beginning, especially if your dog is not used to getting out and about. It’s important to start an exercise slowly and under the guidance of your vet.
A dog stroller is a great way to transport your dog to your chosen doggie park or recreation space where they can do their exercise in a safe and dog friendly place. When their exercising period is up or the dog is physically tired, they can return back to the stroller, enabling you to return home quickly and safely with your pet.
Pet strollers – the big debate
A dog stroller has to benefit both you and your dog. That’s why so many factors have to be considered when choosing a pet stroller. Will the stroller be used only temporarily? Will the dog use it for the rest of their life? What size and design of stroller works for both the dog and the pusher? What sort of journeys are the dog and owner going to make together?
And if your dog no longer needs the use of a pet stroller, it should then be folded up and stored away until a situation arises when you need to use it again. Don’t ever let your healthy dog get accustomed to being pushed around in a stroller, unless the environment you are travelling in is a danger to your dog.
What people have to start to understand is that some dog owners push their dog around in a dog stroller for many valid reasons, and it’s not because they want their dog to become lazy and obese or be like the latest celebrity trend setter. That would be preposterous and untrue. Dog strollers are a great way to spend more quality time with your dog, if they happen to be senior, small and vulnerable, unable to walk long distances or suffer from a medical condition. They are used to bring a better quality of life for your dog.