You may be reducing your overweight dog’s life expectancy if you’re guilty of feeding them too much. While this probably isn’t the first time you’ve heard this news, recent research reveals just how many years you’re shaving from your precious pooch’s life by not watching his or her weight.
In a December 2018 study published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, researchers looked at more than 50,000 middle-aged dogs across 12 different breeds to examine whether being overweight had any effect on their lifespans. The results indicated that overweight dogs of all breeds lived shorter lives than their healthy-weight counterparts, with large dog breeds being less affected than smaller breeds. For example, overweight male German shepherds lived five months less than male German shepherds at healthy weights. Yorkshire terriers were most affected, passing two-and-a-half years before their healthy-weight counterparts. While those numbers may not seem like a lot, each day we get to spend with our dogs should be cherished.
Though the researchers didn’t study why the dogs were overweight, they suspect that feeding habits and a lack of awareness regarding healthy dog weights contributed to the problem of overweight pups. “What [pet owners] may not know is that, if their beloved pet is too heavy, they are more likely to suffer from other problems such as joint disease, breathing issues, and certain types of cancer, as well as having a poorer quality of life. These health and wellbeing issues can significantly impact how long they live,” study co-author Alex German said.
Plus, pets have become crafty with their begging, and unsuspecting owners typically give in to their fur babies’ demands for more treats. "For many owners, giving food, particularly tasty table scraps and tidbits, is the way we show affection for our pets,” German, a professor of small animal medicine at the University of Liverpool, explained. “Being careful about what you feed your dog could go a long way to keeping them in good shape and enabling them to be around for many years to come.”
So, what can you do to get your dog to a healthy weight? First, consult with a vet to find an ideal weight for your dog. Then, ditch those bad feeding habits, like giving too many treats and not measuring our scoops of kibble at dinnertime. Ensuring your dog gets enough exercise is crucial, too, so that may mean walks around the neighborhood and trips to the dog park. Continue to weigh your dog as well, as even minor weight gains can lead to serious health effects.