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How Extra Weight Affects Your Dog’s Lifestyle

Any veterinarian can tell you that being overweight or obese is associated with many health issues that put your dog’s health at risk. But what flies under the radar is how those conditions can also affect his or her general lifestyle. Although it isn’t always obvious, the effects can be far-reaching. The good news, however, is that weight loss can improve your dog’s quality of life. Read on to learn more about two studies that document some quality-of-life-related consequences of obesity.

Overweight pups see earlier start of chronic disease and decreased lifespan

Some of the most compelling evidence that obesity negatively affects a dog’s life comes from a 14-year study of Labrador retrievers. In that study, dogs were paired within their litters by gender and body weight and randomly assigned to either a control group or a lean-fed group. Control-group dogs were allowed to eat an unlimited amount of food during 15-minute daily feedings, while lean-fed dogs were fed 75 percent of the amount eaten by their paired littermates. All dogs ate the same puppy and adult dog foods throughout their lives — only the quantities were different.

The dogs fed to maintain a lean body condition (body condition score, or BCS, of 4 to 5 on a 9-point scale) lived 15 percent, or 1.8 years, longer than the control-group dogs (BCS of 6 to 7). The leaner dogs weighed less, had less body fat, and experienced a two-year delay in the loss of lean body mass (such as muscle) as they aged.

Beyond living longer, the study found that arthritis and other chronic diseases developed about two years later in lean-fed dogs than in control-group dogs. The control-group dogs showed other physical effects as well. Researchers observed that the heavier dogs had more visible signs of aging, such as graying muzzles, impaired gaits and reduced activity, at an earlier age than the lean-fed dogs. What researchers learned from the study is that feeding less doesn’t necessarily change what health problems develop, but when those issues occur.

Weight loss shown to improve quality of life

Some dog parents are reluctant to put their overweight or obese dog on a weight-management program because they believe that depriving their furry friend of treats or food may decrease their pets’ quality of life. However, a study done in the United Kingdom found just the opposite — overweight dogs had a poorer quality of life that improved with successful weight loss.

In that study, owners of overweight and obese dogs completed a questionnaire at the beginning and conclusion of a weight-loss program at a university clinic. Owners were asked about their dogs’ behavior and health-related quality of life, including factors such as pain, activity, sociability, aggression, anxiety, mobility, enthusiasm and happiness. As part of the weight-management program, all dogs were fed one of two commercially available diets.

The main conclusion reached by the veterinary researchers is that the health-related quality of life of obese dogs starts low but improves with successful weight loss. Pet owners whose dogs successfully lost weight reported their canine companions had improved vitality and emotional well-being and decreased pain.

Talk with your veterinarian about your dog’s weight

A few extra pounds on your furry friend may not seem like a cause for concern. But as these studies show, too much weight can negatively affect your dog’s quality of life. And, in reality, there are many other ways in which extra weight negatively impacts our dogs’ quality of life through its association with various health problems.

If you’re concerned about your canine companion’s weight, talk with your veterinarian. A diet such as Diamond CARE Weight Management Formula for Adult Dogs may be just what the doctor orders for weight loss that positively affects your dog’s health and quality of life.

The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.

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