Pet Vet: Dog's weight issues could be metabolic

December 16, 2013


"Why is my dog so fat?" Allison is becoming very frustrated as she has watched Rufus, her 8-year-old dachshund mix, turn into what she describes as a sausage. Realizing it is not in his best interest, Allison put Rufus on a diet, but after three months of food control, Rufus gained two pounds. I can certainly see why this must be frustrating.

Obesity in our companions is a rising problem. But, as is the case with humans, it’s not a simple issue. Since we are responsible for caring for our companions, the solution lies with us. I have not once in my career seen a patient of mine willingly attempt to reduce his or her body weight.

Excess body mass in our companions can have underlying metabolic issues that contribute to this problem. There can be genetic components involved or sometimes acquired hormonal problems that can lead to obesity. These possible underlying problems need to be sorted out as part of a weight loss program. This will involve a thorough physical examination and blood workup looking for some of these possibilities. This is precisely where Allison needs to start with Rufus.

One of the more common hormonal diseases that leads to obesity is hypothyroidism. This condition is caused by a lack of thyroid hormone in the body. This causes a slowing of metabolic rate and a decrease in activity. It does not, however, cause a reduction in appetite. This combination can lead to obesity. Hypothyroidism is easily diagnosed with blood testing and equally easy to treat with thyroid hormone supplementation. While we can hope for one of these easily treated underlying problems as the cause for our companion’s obesity, it is far more common that our portly friend has widened his stance because his caretakers feed him too much.

Without question the No. 1 cause for obesity in our companions is us! We tend to overfeed or pals both their regular food and then oftentimes (read "many times"), various types of treats. When the amount of calories taken in by our dog, you cat folks should be heeding this as well, exceeds their daily needs, the extra is stored as fat. The longer this process of excess caloric intake is allowed to continue, the fatter our companion becomes. In order to combat this process, one must first admit they are the likely cause. The next step involves coming up with a solution. This is where we as veterinarians can help.

Allison needs to schedule an appointment for Rufus to see his veterinarian. After ruling out any underlying metabolic or hormonal issues that might be contributing to Rufus’ obesity, a weight loss plan can be developed specifically tailored to Rufus. This will without question involve some type of diet modification, which might include special food formulations as well as feeding techniques. Depending on Rufus’ body score and overall skeletal health, an exercise regimen should also be part of his weight loss program.

The bottom line here for Rufus is that he needs to lose weight, something of which Allison is keenly aware. He will be a much happier healthier dog in the long run though he may not think so during the weight loss process.

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