Obesity in dogs is a growing concern for pet owners across the UK.
Obesity in dogs is associated with a number of medical complaints, including osteoarthritis, cardiovascular disease, liver disease and insulin resistance. Obesity is not just what you see on the outside, but fat deposits will also build up around all the internal organs including the heart and lungs. The lungs cannot expand to their full potential to take in oxygen if there is a build-up of fat deposits in the chest cavity.
How does obesity affect our dogs' ability to walk? Here comes the science bit…
Fat deposits on the diaphragm put stress on a dog’s body, particularly during walks. Their breathing may be compromised and the elasticity of the lungs and surrounding chest issues is altered. This, in turn, leads to stress on the heart. The heart will try to compensate for the decreased lung function by increasing the heart rate and the blood flow.
What’s the best way to maintain a dog's healthy weight?
Ensuring your dog has enough exercise to maintain a healthy weight is key, and providing your dog has a healthy diet and isn’t over-eating, you shouldn’t need to do anything more.
It is recommended that dogs should be exercised a couple of times a day and that this exercise elevates the heart rate for a minimum of 20 minutes. This elevated heart rate puts its’ body into a fat -burning state, much like a spin class would for us humans!
At Harris Hounds, we base our hour-long walks on 45 minutes of exercise – walking, running and play, and 15 minutes of ‘sniff time’ for mental stimulation.
What’s the minimum amount of exercise my dog needs?
The minimal amount of exercise needed to maintain muscle tone is 20 minutes, 3 x a week, but this is the bare minimum! Studies have shown that after just a matter of days, well-conditioned muscles begin to lose their tone and strength when they are unutilised. This, in turn, can lead to injuries -often knee and soft tissue damage.
What to do if your dog needs more?
Having a tired dog after a walk gets them into a relaxed state of mind, so it is important to tailor your dog’s activities to their individual needs. For those needing a little more than a walk, Harris Hounds are offering Canine Cardio sessions on request. These are 30 minute runs with a trained walker.
Fun ball based games such as fetch are also great ways of increasing your dog’s activity levels during a walk, and club activities such as agility, flyball and Canicross are also fantastic exercise and fun for both owner and pet.