Sadly, I’ve lost count of how many years now pet obesity has been on the rise, along with all the disorders that inevitably result when animals are overfed and under-exercised. According to pet insurer Nationwide, in 2016 over 1.3 million pet owner claims totaling more than $60 million were submitted for obesity-related diseases, which equates to a 23 percent increase in just 3 years.1 Per Nationwide, the top 10 obesity-related diseases in dogs last year were:
Cystitis/urinary tract disease
Cruciate ligament injuries
Intervertebral disc disease
Chronic renal disease
Congestive heart failure
Obesity-related diseases are entirely preventable, and yet they continue to increase in dogs year after year. Most of them shorten an already too-short lifespan and often destroy the animal’s quality of life along the way.
As a proactive wellness veterinarian, it’s incredibly frustrating to me to see so many dogs these days being overfed and under-exercised to the point of developing one or more potentially devastating diseases. Especially when it’s so easy to keep them at a healthy weight and in good physical condition.
All Dogs, Especially Fat Ones, MUST Get Daily Exercise
Consistent daily exercise, including at least 20 minutes (and preferably 60) of aerobic activity will help your dog burn fat and increase muscle tone. If you’re unable to provide him with this much physical activity (and some dogs require even more), consider joining a pet sports club or doggy daycare. Another option is to hire a dog walker (or dog jogger, hiker or biker), although exercising your own dog gets YOU moving, too.
If your dog is very overweight or obese, he may not be able to endure extended periods of exercise initially. Swimming is actually an excellent low-impact, gentle form of exercise for dogs that need to start out slow, as well as those with arthritis or mobility issues. Ask your veterinarian what exercises are safe for your dog to do, and which you either need to avoid or put off until he’s in better condition.