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Do you have an overweight dog that doesn’t eat much? Does your dog seem to keep gaining weight even though their food intake isn’t increasing? There is a range of factors that can contribute to your dog’s weight gain, as well as plenty of solutions. As dog parents, we want to do all we can to ensure our furry best friends live a long and healthy life, and the good news is, we are here to help you understand why your dog is overweight and what you can do about it. So, to accurately determine why your dog is overweight but doesn’t eat much, read on.
My Dog is Overweight but Doesn't Eat Much
There can be various reasons why your dog is overweight but doesn’t eat much, some surprising and some that may seem obvious. Like humans, dogs can gain kilos and, before you know it, are overweight – though, it isn’t always about calories in versus calorie expenditure.
Common reasons your dog is overweight but doesn’t eat much:
1. Too Much Food: Now we know what you’re thinking; this is about dogs who don’t eat much. However, many dog owners are unsure of just how much they should be feeding their pets and generally overestimate as a precaution. What’s more, as dogs age, we often continue to feed them the same amount or increase the quantity even though they tend to be less active. Additionally, dogs are natural scavengers and are great at convincing us to give them extra food, whether they’re hungry or not. Combine this with any sneaky treats throughout the day, as well as some owners providing 24/7 access to food, and we have a recipe for weight gain. Dogs have a surprisingly small caloric need compared to us, but the math is still the same when it comes to maintaining a healthy body weight; calories consumed must be less than the calories expended. Precise measurements, consistency and feeding smaller, more frequent meals are recommended to effectively manage a specific weight for your dog.
2. Lack of Exercise: This is one of the most common reasons for weight gain in dogs. Exercise is crucial for any breed of dog – big, small, young, and old; they all need daily physical activity. The type and amount of exercise will depend on your dog’s age, breed and size, though an excellent goal to aim for is between twenty to sixty minutes per day. Working dogs such as Kelpies and Border Collies will need far more exercise than, say, a Cocker Spaniel or a Dachshund may prefer a leisurely stroll as opposed to a high-intensity ball-chasing Jack Russell. Each dog will have specific individual needs when it comes to exercise, and it is essential to take these into account to ensure they get the ideal amount of exercise each day.
3. Aging: Like us, dogs lose muscle mass as they age. Also referred to as sarcopenia, this involuntary reduction in muscle mass and strength leads to a slower metabolism. As the metabolism is responsible for converting food into energy, this decrease plays a significant role in your dog’s weight and possible fat gain. It is important to be aware of your aging dog’s nutritional requirements and adjust their food to reflect their dietary needs. Switching to senior dog food is recommended for older dogs as it typically contains fewer calories, is high in fibre and provides sufficient fats and protein. Make sure you check that the food is not too high in carbohydrates, as this stimulates insulin production, causing an increase in appetite and higher body fat. Another point to consider is that dogs become less energetic as they age, meaning they will quickly gain weight if you feed them the same amount as when they were younger and much more active.
4. Genetics: Unfortunately, some dog breeds are more susceptible to weight gain and obesity and can be the reason why your dog is overweight but doesn’t eat much. Ensuring your dog is fed the correct amount of food and receives adequate daily exercise is imperative for their overall health. If unsure of your dog’s needs, we recommend visiting your veterinarian for professional advice.
5. Chronic Illness: Certain chronic illnesses such as Cushing’s disease (hyperadrenocorticism), hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid), high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer and some tumours can all contribute towards your dog’s weight gain.
• Cushing’s disease is an endocrine disorder that causes an increase in cortisol production. Cortisol is a chemical that aids in managing weight, stress, and blood sugar levels and helps to fight infection. The symptoms of Cushing’s disease are weight gain, excessive hunger, thirst and urination, heavy panting, hair loss and the appearance of a swollen abdomen.
• Hypothyroidism or underactive thyroid is another common reason for weight gain. Symptoms include hair loss, lethargy, weakness, reduced appetite, panting, infection and low immune system.
6. Medical Reasons: If your dog suffers from a medical illness, they may be prone to weight gain. Osteoarthritis, hip dysplasia, parasites, bloating, fluid retention and even prescription drugs can affect your dog’s weight. Not to mention, pregnancy will rapidly increase their number on the scales.
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Why Does My Overweight Dog Not Want to Eat?
We understand that having an overweight dog that does not want to eat can create some cause for concern. Though, it is important to determine why your dog does not want to eat before jumping to any conclusions. Dogs can lose their appetite for a variety of reasons, such as:
1. Taste: Even dogs aren’t immune to a fussy palette. Sometimes it is as simple as them not liking the taste of their food. This can be due to various factors – genetics, early experiences, texture, flavour, temperature and so on. Try providing them with a suitable alternative to eliminate if it’s the taste (and check the expiration dates while you’re at it). Many pet food suppliers offer a free sample bag of food, so you can even try it before you buy.
2. Location: Just like real estate, it is all about location. Make sure you’re feeding your dog in an environment where they feel comfortable and safe. It’s also recommended that you keep a consistent routine of where they eat, in a place away from other animals, doorways, high-traffic areas and anything that can cause them anxiety or deter/distract them from eating (such as the height of their bowl).
3. Behaviour: Similar to location, your dog may not be eating due to their surroundings. Dogs are sentient beings, and their emotions can affect their appetite, just like ours. Environmental factors such as loud storms or overwhelming heat can alter their desire to eat. Even stressors or significant changes like moving house can cause a hormonal imbalance, resulting in a decrease in appetite. Some dogs may also be reluctant to eat if they suffer from an anxiety disorder.
4. Timing: Dogs can only articulate so much to us as pet owners, so we must do what we can to help them along the way. For example, feeding your dog right before or after a long walk might cause them to feel ill, with them refusing to eat in the same circumstances in the future. Maybe they’re so excited about their walk that food is the last thing on their mind, and that’s why they’re not eating. Some dogs might not want to eat if you feed them right before you leave the house due to some anxiety. Or, as we know, they’re sticklers for routine, and our furry friends may well refuse to eat just because their regular schedule has been changed.
5. Lack of Exercise: Believe it or not but lack of exercise can directly relate to your dog’s appetite. Exercise stimulates the production of ghrelin, a hormone that increases appetite. If your dog is not moving and exerting enough energy, it can affect their overall eating habits and answer why your dog is overweight but does not want to eat.
6. Dietary Issues: Gut bacteria, food intolerances, parasites and digestive upset are just some of the reasons your dog may not want to eat.
7. Dental Problems: If your dog is suffering from any oral issues, they will most likely not want to eat because of the pain.
8. Illness: A common reason your dog may not want to eat is that they are unwell. It is crucial that you monitor your dog’s appetite and seek professional veterinarian advice so you can treat them as quickly and as effectively as possible.
9. Vaccination/New Medications: Bodies take time to adjust, so if your dog has recently been vaccinated or started/changed medications, this could be a temporary reaction, which is generally minor and brief.
10. Pregnancy: Female dogs usually lose their appetite at the beginning of their pregnancy, and it is normally nothing to worry about.
11. Spoiled:We know it’s tempting, but as you introduce more tasty snacks to your pooch, you are encouraging them to be more selective when it comes to their own meal. You’ll soon be bending over backwards, switching food and preparing meals to appease their fussy appetite. Treats before their mealtime will also suppress their appetite, so try to avoid creating any bad habits early on.
12. Small Appetite: Some dogs just have a smaller appetite. However, it is important to consider that if your overweight dog does not want to eat, it may come down to portion control or another reason that is worth investigating sooner rather than later.
Why Does My Overweight Dog Not Eat Much?
As dog owners, we are responsible for taking care of our loving four-legged friends and ensuring we are doing everything we can to promote a healthy lifestyle. If your overweight dog does not eat much, it is essential to decipher why and make progressive changes to prevent any potential health issues that are caused by weight gain and obesity. There are many adverse health effects of being overweight, and understanding why your overweight dog does not eat much is crucial to their quality of life.
If you have a dog that is overweight but doesn't eat much, it is vital that you explore why and do what you can to help your pet. There is a range of factors associated with weight gain, and there are equally as many solutions. However, if your pet has not eaten for longer than two days, we encourage you to seek immediate veterinary advice.