National Pet Obesity Awareness Day (October, 14, 2020) is a great reminder to stop and think about what we can do to help our dogs maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is very serious disease with over 56% of dogs being overweight, obesity is a critical problem that greatly increases the risks of more serious secondary diseases like heart disease, cancer and diabetes. We've summarized a cross sectional analysis by veterinarians and animal scientists that have looked at the risk factors for obesity are in dogs.
With so many negative health problems associated with obesity, it is important to understand the risks associated with the disease and what the best method is to mediate and prevent these problems.
Body condition score is the estimation of fat reserves through physical palpation and it is the best way to determine if an animal is obese. There are a variety of risk factors associated with weight gain including exercise regime, age, and whether an animal is intact or neutered/spayed.
Diet is one of primary influences in a high body condition score. In smaller cohorts, all types of diets and treats have been shown by various studies to be associated with weight gain.
The goal of the present study (Perry et al.) was to use a large cohort of client collected data to assess the risks of obesity in dogs.
What they did:
In order to test the risks of obesity in dogs, the researchers collected data from a large pool of pet owners across the United States. Dog owners were tasked with completing an online assessment with a variety of factors, including ranking body condition on a 9 point scale. A statistical analysis was performed on the data to determine any novel factors.
What they found:
It was found that 33% of the dogs examined were overweight, with 8% of those being obese. Significant factors associated with the obese animals included diet composition, probiotic supplementation, treat quantity, exercise, age, food motivation level, neutering and pet appetite.
Older, neutered animals were more likely to be obese, and a shorter lifespan was hypothesized for this group.
In reference to diet, it was observed that dogs fed fresh food were less likely to be obese than dogs fed commercially processed kibble. However, dogs fed a combination of kibble and a topper (canned or fresh) were significantly more likely to be obese than the other groups. The difference in obesity related to diet was suggested to be a result of improper portion sizes. Emphasizing the difficulties dog parents have towards understanding appropriate portion for their dogs.
Furthermore, it was found that dogs fed probiotics were associated with decreased obesity. This supported the findings of other studies that showed differences in gut microbiota of obese and ideal weight dogs.
Limitations to consider:
Since it was pet owners completing the body condition score survey, there may have been incorrect or biased data collection. Future studies should consider examining these factors in a controlled laboratory setting to remove biases and incorrect data collection.
Take home message:
The major factors associated with obesity in the customer based dogs seemed to be the inability of pet owners to portion meals properly for their animal’s metabolic requirements. This study suggests that overfeeding may be the greatest risk factor associated with obesity in dogs. A potential solution for pet owners who have a tendency to over feed is to consider feeding fresh food or dry food from companies that proportion individual meals for their canine customers.
Check out Kabo's meal portion calculator to see the calories your dog should be having each day.