An overweight dog that eats a diet high in fat is subject to a host of health problems, says Linda P. Case, M.S., companion-animal nutritionist at the University of Illinois in Urbana, Illinois. “The added workload to the heart of an obese dog can cause additional strain on the heart, “says Case. Congestive heart failure is more prevalent in obese dogs than in their leaner counterparts. But the problems go much farther than potential heart disease. The excess weight that an obese dog is forced to carry around can also cause exercise intolerance, not to mention heat intolerance, which can be even more critical in a coated breed such as a Sheltie. “The quality of life of an obese dog is compromised,” says Case.
Studies indicate that an obese dog may be at a higher surgical risk, too, adds Case. “There's a lot more tissue in the obese dog and fatty tissue is highly vascular, so there can be more bleeding in surgery,” she says, adding that obese dogs are a higher anesthesia risk and experience a higher rate of death following surgery.
If you still haven’t heard enough reasons not to let your Sheltie keep its extra insulation, here are some more. Obese dogs are more likely to develop diabetes. Obesity at an early age (12 months) appears to be a significant risk factor for the development of mammary tumors as the dog ages. Obesity at any stage of life increases a dog’s chances of developing bladder cancer.
Even a short period of obesity can be harmful. A recent study suggests that already in the early stages of obesity, excess weight causes detrimental changes to the function and structure of the kidneys. Obese dogs reportedly are more likely to suffer from skin problems and may suffer from weakened immune systems. Orthopedic disorders can include herniated intervertebral disks and ruptured cranial cruciate ligaments. Arthritis, which is not uncommon in aging Shelties, is exacerbated with every excess pound. If the Sheltie suffers from any musculoskeletal problems, the extra weight may cause the dog to suffer more pain than a lighter dog.
Are you convinced now? Although we are a culture that often reaches to food to show nurturing and love, overfeeding your Shetland Sheepdog could literally be “killing it with kindness.”
by Joan Hustace Walker
(Reprinted with permission from the Popular Dogs Series magazine, Shetland Sheepdogs
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