Obesity and respiratory issues/disease go hand in hand. The mechanical aspects as well as the inflammatory aspect of obesity affect lung function and lung capacity. Research shows that shortness of breath, wheezing, dyspnea and airway hyperresponsiveness also affect the heart and there is plenty of research into the effects of obesity and cardiopulmonary function in both humans and canines.
Research shows that obesity affects the lungs ability to function in numerous ways. Fat itself is bulky and inhibits the diaphragm but researchers also believe the actual structure of the lungs and chest cavity change and reduced elasticity restricts ventilation, reducing lung capacity, increasing respiratory rate which in-turn increases heart rate (1) While fat itself require more oxygen distribution the fat tissue triggers an inflammatory response further more restricting lung capacity (4). Research shows that obesity also induces changes that reduce responsiveness to airway stimulants (2)
Research also shows that fast onset obesity and long-term obesity equally decrease lung function, resulting in increased respiratory and heart rate, the stress and strain on the heart and body doesn’t begin after a long period of obesity, it is immediate. Where long term obesity and fast onset obesity do differ is in the recovery rate, long term obesity takes longer to recover from (1), so obesity needs to be addressed immediately.
A simple change in diet, reduced calories and increase in exercise, will reverse obesity effects, associated inflammatory aspects, weight loss will result in reduced resting heart rate and respiratory rate (3).
We know that obesity is responsible for reduced lung capacity, increased respiratory rate and increased heart rate and this also results in Low Stamina caused by the body, the heart, lungs and muscles having to work extra hard just to function at a basic level. Reduced lung function causes low oxygen levels which manifests as lethargy and laziness, reluctance to play and go for walks (5). Research shows obese dogs that successfully lose weight return to a normal level of vitality. Even modest weight loss can have a profound effect. (6) Research has also shown that weight loss reduces emotional disturbance scores and there is evidence of reduced pain scores all of which will affect a dogs willingness to be active.(6) Keeping a dog at a healthy weight will keep him/her fit. Feeding a healthy diet that supports organ function, the immune system and the dogs calorific requirements will give him the ability to sustain prolonged physical and mental activity.
Studies suggest that 25% of overweight dogs develop joint, bone and ligament complications (7). When the joints and bones are required to carry excess weight, damage can result in the developments of arthritis, joint deterioration or exacerbate pre-existing and predisposed conditions such as hip and elbow dysplasia. Ligaments can tear or strain under excess weight causing conditions such as cruciate ligament disease, leaving lethargic dogs even less willing to exercise. Arthritis is a chronic disease, characterised by loss of joint cartilage, causing thickening of the joint capsule, new bone forms around the joint which causes pain and eventually dysfunction. Osteoarthritis is often secondary to other conditions such as cranial cruciate ligament disease, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, OCD, patella (knee cap) dislocation (8). All of which are affected and exacerbated by carrying excess weight. We can simply avoid aggravating joint issues by keeping to a healthy weight, feeding a healthy diet that supports joint health, accompanied with daily exercise.
Heat exhaustion is an issue for dogs in general, but it is more of an issue for certain dogs including over-weight dogs. Fat acts as an insulator, it is not good at conducting heat, so it has a useful purpose, which is to trap heat inside the body and keep internal organs at the right temperature. If your dog has too much fat, the body is already under a certain amount of strain but with no way of regulating body temperature, they are in danger of over-heating and heatstroke (9). Symptoms may include excessive panting, bright red gums, shaking, vomiting, diarrhoea, confusion, weakness, collapse, seizures and even death. Heat Stroke and Over-heating need immediate attention and in extreme cases a vet. The best way to keep your dog cool is to keep him slim and fit, a healthy dog can regulate his/her temperature much more efficiently than an over-weight dog. Allow your dog access to a cool shaded area and avoid over exercising them on hot summer days.
OTHER SERIOUS HEALTH ISSUES TO CONSIDER:
- Increased Risk of Cancer & Disease
- Decreased Immunity
- Digestive Disorders
- Reproduction Problems
- Increased Anaesthetic Risk
- Decrease in Liver Function
Treatment and preventions:
- Reduce Your Dogs Food Portions
- Start taking Daily Exercise
- If your dog is severely over-weight consult your vet before doing the above as drastically reducing calories too quick or introducing exercise can have adverse effects. Also a good opportunity to check with a vet that weight gain is not due to illness or disease
- Reduce carbohydrate intake
- Switch to a low fat, protein based diet
- Switch to a Light Recipe
- Cut out unhealthy treats, switch to low fat fish treats with the added benefit of omega 3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. Fish Skin treat also have an abrasive action which aid in Dental Hygiene.
- Introduce long lasting chews
- Weigh your dog’s food out
- Weigh your dog regularly