Overweight Dog Epidemic

April 20, 2019 5 min read

The Pet Obesity Epidemic and What We Can Do About It

According to the most recent data, over 50% of our pet population is obese. While this number is definitely concerning and high, it’s not shocking when you consider that about 30% of the human population faces the same struggle. This epidemic can lead to many other health issues in our beloved dogs, so we must take a look at what is causing obesity in pets and what we can do about it! 

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Fat Must be to Blame

As time wenton, we got heavier and heavier. We set our sights on the fat content in the food we are consuming as the reason for why we were, well… getting fat. And, it would be easy to see why we might see fat as the issue; it has over twice the energy (calories) of/proteinorcarbohydrates. However, fat is not making humans or our pets fat. We’ve known this for well over 100 years, and it has been proven unequivocally by the scientific community. 

Carbohydrate & Modern Agriculture 

Ever since the advent of modern farming and agriculture, our bodies have struggled to adapt to a new style of living and eating. Gone are the days where we struggled with lack for days on end and had to most often fight for every meal. Making matters worse, manufacturers introduced highly processed-carbohydrate rich options into our food supply. Consequently, these highly processed foods were often the most economical choice over other more natural whole food alternatives. 

Unfortunately, our dogs are not insulated from this food evolution either. Just as within the human population, reliance on highly processed-high carbohydrate foods has skyrocketed since the turn of the 20th century. Just walk down any pet food aisle in grocery stores and pet stores. Processed foods (kibble and canned foods) dominate. This is the same in human grocery stores for the food we consume. The center store is the largest of all sections by a large margin. Fresh-whole foods are sparse at best. 

The cornerstone to these processed foods is carbohydrate,which in some instances, can represent upwards of 40% of the foods that we have traditionally fed our dogs. Mammals, including dogs and people, have no ability to deal with constant, excess starch and sugar (carbohydrate). 

When analyzing the natural world (prior to agricultural revolution) for what represents food/nourishment, constant high levels of starch and sugar (carbohydrate) are never found. The only exception to this would be honey, which is rarely encountered by our dogs. On average, the starch and sugar content of vegetables, fruits, plants, berries, insects, eggs, fish, and meat is roughly 4%. This is remarkably low in contrast to our diets today which are commonly over 40% carbs.

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Evolution’s Impact on Obesity 

On a more technical note, dogs and human bodies have eight hormones that raise blood sugar. There is only one that lowers it, insulin. It is easy to see that nature placed a great deal of importance on keeping blood sugar held up. And, very little need to lower blood sugar. Insulin’s role is to capture rare spikes in blood sugar and save it as fat for later use as energy. This ability played a critical role in our evolution and that of our furry companions. We could store excess energy for later use when times were tough. 

But, hereinliesthe issue. Our sharply honed, battle-ready, 4 million year old bodies are not prepared to deal with our modern environment. The constant and excess consumption of carbohydrate-rich food such as kibble is directly responsible for the pet obesity epidemic we see today. The more carbohydrate that we consume, the/more/that energy is converted to fat stores for later use as evolution intended. Day after day though, we cannot use the stored energy fast enough and find ourselves with the obesity epidemic we are currently in.

Even as recent as 75-100 years ago, we did not have obese dogs. Not only was there not typically enough excess to foster such asituation, more importantly, the pervasive presence of high carb processed foods was non existent. It wasn’t until pet food manufacturers started to pump out kibble and change the public’s perception of how a dog should be fed, did things start to get out of control. 

So...does kibble cause obesity?

It definitely doesn't prevent it! Kibble is often made up of 50% or more of grains and carbohydrates. This provides your dog will calories, but their body turns them into fat. Dogs have no nutritional need for carbohydrates and grains. Below we will discuss what the best diet for an obese dog is!

Why Should You Be Concerned?

Obesity in dogs is just as dangerous as obesity in humans. It can reduce the lifespan of your dog and decrease their quality of life. It can also lead to other health issues down the road. Overweight and obese dogs suffer from a large number of health conditions, including:

  • Orthopedic disease
  • Ligament rupture
  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Urinary disorders
  • Heart disease
  • Joint problems
  • Pancreatitis
  • Cardiorespiratory diseases
  • Certain types cancers
  • Skin problems

What’s the Solution For Dog Obesity?

The solution to both the human and pet obesity epidemic is a diet based on whole-fresh foods. Ideally for our dogs, the diet would be fresh, raw, and composed of muscle meats, organs, ground bone, and optionally, a small mix of fruits and vegetables. All our formulas at Cali Raw are based on the B.A.R.F. model diet (Biologically Appropriate Raw Foods) consisting of approximately 80% meat, bone, and organs and 20% fresh vegetables with added salmon oil and essential vitamins and minerals to enhance your dog's health. 

This diet provides your dog with the type of food their body is adapted for. It is free from chemical additives and a high amount of carbohydrates. It is also a species appropriate diet, mimicking what your dog would eat if they were in the nature. Unlike “light” kibble, a natural raw diet is designed to help your dog achieve, and remain at, their ideal weight without cutting vital nutrients from their diet. In fact, dogs on a raw diet receive more proteins, vitamins, and minerals than those eating kibble! 

Whereas a natural raw diet is the best option for overweight dogs (and for all other dogs, for that matter), it won’t work miracles. You’ll need to feed your dog the right amount for their size and activity level. With this being said, we recommend feeding your dog based on the ideal weight. Our Feeding Calculator can help you determine this amount. Remember, you will also need to pick the right raw diet — good-quality raw food contains all the nutrients your dog needs and is low in calories.

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