Main Causes of Obesity in Dogs

Healthy lifestyle Breeds and features Feeding
What causes obesity in dogs?

In recent discussions with our veterinary consulting group, they found that at least 8 out of 10 dogs coming in for surgery are overweight. One veterinarian even stated that dog obesity is the second-largest risk factor for a shortened lifespan.
Here are the primary factors that influence weight and obesity in dogs:

  1. Diet Quality - especially the ratio of macronutrients: protein, fats, and carbohydrates. The more carbohydrates in your dog's diet, the more your dog will store calories from all three.
  2. Diet Quantity - the amount of calories consumed.
  3. Physical Activity - the number of calories your dog burns beyond their "basal metabolic rate." This is the number of calories needed for essential functions like breathing and digesting food.
  4. Underlying Medical Conditions or Animal's State - These can increase or decrease your dog's calorie needs and insulin sensitivity.
  5. Neutering/Spaying.
  6. Breed Predispositions.

Let's delve into these causes more:

Diet Quality

Most dogs are fed carbohydrate-rich, wet, or dry commercial foods. They also receive many treats or human food from the kitchen.

Carbohydrates in these foods are the main culprits in weight gain. This is a perfect storm for canine obesity. Remove grains like rice and oats, as well as potatoes, peas, lentils, and other legumes, from your dog's diet to quickly improve your dog's nutrition. Dogs are especially prone to bloating and water retention, which highly correlates with processed diets. There is also an added inflammatory response to foods your dog's immune system perceives as toxic, such as gluten in grains or lectins in legumes.

Feeding your dog an appropriate diet for their species (not just a low-carb diet) will allow them to digest, absorb, and utilize food without storing fat or fighting off inflammatory responses to toxins.

The Role of Sugar and Insulin in Diet

Many people associate too much fat in the diet with weight gain. The fundamental premise is, "You are what you eat." So, consuming fat makes you fat. However, it's a bit different with dogs, and there are far more critical factors determining this process.

The actual cause of dog obesity is how food interacts with a dog's hormones and immune system. These factors can make your dog's body accumulate weight, with one of the primary determinants being sugar. Not necessarily sugar strictly, but food groups that break down into sugar.

What genuinely controls fat accumulation is insulin... and insulin responds to sugar. In dogs, there are seven different mechanisms to raise blood sugar levels; only one is insulin.

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. It helps lower blood sugar levels and helps the body store it in muscles, fat cells, and the liver for later use.

After a meal, blood sugar levels (glucose) rise. This increase in blood sugar triggers the pancreas to release insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin then moves through the bloodstream and into the cells of the body. Once inside, cells convert glucose into energy or store it for later use. Without insulin, the body can't use or store glucose for energy. Instead, glucose stays in the bloodstream.

Carbohydrates in Your Dog's Diet

It's important to note that if your dog is eating a lot of sugar and fat, the body recognizes that they're consuming too many calories or too many calories for immediate use. It will store the sugar as fat. Interestingly, the body mainly uses fat for energy and stores it as fat!

Let's look at typical diets that consist of kibble or biscuits. We'll see that they contain over 50% carbohydrates compared to diets more suitable for ancestral or wild dogs, where carbohydrates constituted about 14% of their diet. The difference is evident!

So, the key takeaway is to focus on the quality of the components in your dog's diet, such as human-grade protein sources (according to our full range of raw diets) and the macronutrient ratios. This ratio is fat, protein, and carbohydrates. Our complete raw diets for dogs are inherently low in carbohydrates.

We have received positive feedback from dog owners dealing with obesity, who have quickly and safely lost weight by feeding our raw dog food.

Diet Quantity

If you provide your dog with the food necessary to maintain its ideal weight, it will reach that goal effortlessly.

Physical Activity

Dogs require appropriate exercise for their physical and mental well-being. Engaging their brain, body, and nose is essential to thrive. Therefore, consider your dogs' abilities, ages, and preferences when looking for the right approach to physical and mental stimulation.

Critical Considerations: If you're providing the right amount of food and following a proper diet but are concerned that your dog is unwell, consult a veterinarian.

Sterilization results in a loss of the circulation of sex hormones, which slows down the animal's metabolism and can lead to overweight or obesity. Changes in sex hormones after sterilization directly affect the satiety center (how full or satisfied the dog feels) in the brain due to changes in leptin and ghrelin (the "hunger hormone") concentrations. These changes may indirectly affect how they react to food and their appetite.

In one study, four female hounds had been allowed to eat "ad libitum" for three months postoperatively compared to preoperative data. They consumed much more food and gained weight. The study concluded that energy intake should be reduced by 30% post-ovariectomy (removal of ovaries) to maintain optimal body weight over six months. These results confirmed previous experiments with four young adult female hounds, showing that energy requirements decreased by 20% after ovariectomy.

This indicates that if you have neutered or spayed your dog, their energy needs will be significantly lower, and therefore, their food requirements will also be lower. It's also important to understand that hormone changes can alter how they react to food and how much they want to eat.

Breed Predisposition Recent data on various animal species have allowed us to take a fresh look at the genetic basis of obesity. Significant predisposition to obesity has been identified in certain breeds, including Cairn Terriers, West Highland White Terriers, Scottish Terriers, Scottish Shepherds, Basset Hounds, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Dachshunds, Greyhounds, Cocker Spaniels, and Labradors. Conversely, some breeds, especially Greyhounds, appear to resist obesity. So, if your dog is a Labrador, dealing with their predisposition to obesity will be more challenging.

Consequences of Obesity in Dogs Obesity is associated with almost all common canine diseases. Even subclinical obesity in dogs can cause many diseases and unwanted symptoms. Here are some of them:
  • Reduced Lifespan
  • Decreased Mobility
  • Diabetes
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Hypertension
  • Cardiovascular Diseases
  • Compromised Breathing
  • Complex Care
  • Increased Risk of Hyperthermia
  • Increased Risk of Cancer
  • Dental Issues

How Our Food Can Help Dogs with Obesity Raw feeding combines various essential ingredients for dogs. If you've read our posts about raw food, you already know that dogs succeed on a diet for which they have evolved.

The main idea of this article is that carbohydrate and sugar management is critical. Beyond that, ensure your dog is getting an appropriate amount of food based on age and activity level. What we're trying to achieve is to get your dog to use up their fat stores, which means we need to feed them a balanced diet but not too much of it.

Our food is low in sugar (the primary cause of weight gain), free of additives, preservatives, and fillers (which can cause bloating), and very palatable for your dog. Cut out all those cheap treats and leftover human food and start following a controlled diet. You don't need special diet kibbles because our food is just complete nutrition and provides your dog with all the necessary energy and nutrients. All you need is the proper nutrition from our company to help your dog lose weight, become more energetic, and enjoy life!