Keeping your dog slim is the most important thing you can do for their quality of life, health, and longevity.
71.79% of people who took my survey believe that weight management is extremely important for dog longevity, and 28.21% believe it is important. It is encouraging to see that everybody sees the importance of this. Meanwhile, the majority of dogs are overweight or obese. What gives?
If we all recognize how important it is to keep our dogs slim, why aren't they?
One thing to bear in mind is that people who read blogs such as this one or take these surveys are people highly involved with their dogs' well-being. So it's not a sample of the average population.
Secondly, understanding the importance of weight management doesn't mean everybody recognizes their dog might be overweight or be able to do something about it effectively.
54% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese.
|Source Association for Pet Obesity Prevention|
33% of owners of overweight or the obese dogs, however, believed their dog was at a healthy weight.
You can't fix a problem if you don't know there is one. We don't even know what our dogs should look like anymore.
Body condition score is the best way to assess where you and your dog stand. I have already written about this, and there are plenty of articles on the subject out there.
Why is keeping your dog at a healthy weight important?
With all else being equal, a life-long reduction in caloric intake can extend your dog's life by almost 2 years on average. In the corresponding study, the dogs were fed 25% fewer calories than the "normal" amount. They ate the same food and lived the same lives as the control group. Yet, they lived longer.
2 years added to their lives; who wouldn't want that?
"Long-term restriction of energy intake without malnutrition is a robust intervention that has been shown to prolong life and delay age-related morbidity." ~PubMed
Perhaps you should think about in the way that there is only so many calories your dog is meant to consume in their lifetime. The sooner they consume it, the sooner they die.
Is that simplified enough?
What is wrong with a little extra fat pad?
There is the mechanical aspect of the matter. That is relatively self-explanatory, isn't it? Carrying around all that extra weight is exhausting, it puts an undue burden on joints, muscles, bones and cardiovascular system, messes with normal mobility, increases risk of injuries and a degree of wear and tear the body is not designed for.
If that wasn't bad enough for you, there is the biochemical impact as well.
For the sake of simplicity, think about your dog's obesity like this:
Looks far-fetched? Not really.
You should think of your dog's obesity as an ecological disaster within.
Well, maybe it looks more like this:
Or maybe a combination of the two.
If we stick with the elephant analogy, it would not only be like carrying one around all the time but like carrying one around all the time on the inside. And yes, that means including all the elephant's dung and everything. Pretty graphic, is it? It's my metaphor and I'm sticking with it.
Fat tissue isn't some kind of an inert mass.
Oh no. It is metabolically active. It produces hormones, growth factors, and signaling molecules. All of these things are good and useful, until the scale tips (pun intended). These metabolites are involved in appetite control, energy balance, inflammatory response, and others.
The more excess fat tissue, the more the regulation gets out of whack.
The result is chronic inflammation and dysregulation. In other words, an ecologic disaster within. Kind of like when you leave the house for the weekend and your teenager throws a party. Except this party goes on all the time. How do you think the house might fare?
Ok, I'm done with the metaphors. Obesity is bad for your dog. Very bad.
Any doubt about the importance of weight management for your dog's longevity yet?
Weight management is a paramount component of longevity for your dog.
Dog Longevity Survey Part I
Dog Longevity Survey Part II
Dog Longevity Survey Part I Results
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