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Canine Obesity The Effect On the Joints, Prevention, and Management Strategies

Full Title: Canine Obesity The Effect On the Joints, Prevention, and Management Strategies

Author: Lori Gammon

Date of Publication: March 2, 2018


Research Paper Text:

Canine Obesity: The Effect On the Joints, Prevention, and Management Strategies
By Lori Gammon
March 2, 2018

Canines, like humans, are affected in many ways by obesity. The risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, breathing difficulties and damage to joints, bones and ligaments are just a few risks and complications with being overweight. The most recent scientific data reveals that moderate excess weight alone shortens a dog’s life expectancy by as much as two years. This research paper will discuss the affects that obesity has on the joint, bones and ligaments of dogs, in addition to strategies to prevent and manage canine obesity.

Studies have suggested that approximately one-quarter of overweight dogs develop serious joint complications. The bones, joints, muscles, and associated tendons and ligaments all work together to give the dog smooth and efficient movement. If they are required to carry excess weight, they can start to become damaged. Pain and joint changes associated with hip dysplasia can become markedly more severe.

Extra tension on joints caused by an increased weight load can also lead to damage of certain ligaments. Ligaments are tough, fibrous strands of tissue that hold one bone in proximity to another bone in joints. One of the ligaments in the knee, the anterior cruciate ligament, is very prone to strains or tears. If this ligament is torn, the knee becomes very unstable and the dog is reluctant to use it. Surgery may be required in some cases to repair the torn ligament.

Arthritis is a common ailment affecting pets today, especially middle-aged to senior dogs. One of the main contributors to arthritis in dogs is excess weight, which adds stress on the joints. More than fifty percent (50%) of the dogs in the U.S. are overweight or obese, according to the Association of Pet Obesity and Prevention 2013 survey.

Until recently, veterinarians thought the increased pain and inflammation associated with  osteoarthritis in overweight or obese dogs was primarily due to the increased wear and tear on  joints. We now know that fat tissue is very biologically active and secretes hormones and other chemicals that both cause and  increase inflammation.

The hormone leptin, which is produced by fat cells, causes inflammation when it infiltrates joints. In addition, leptin may influence the bone changes with osteoarthritis. Finally, inflammation can affect the body’s responses to other hormones such as cortisol and insulin, further unbalancing the body’s attempts at self- regulating and influencing the amount and extent of pain that dogs experience.

The important underlying message is that fat itself contributes to inflammation.: inflammation is part of the pain associated with osteoarthritis and degenerative joint disease and excess weight and obesity contribute to this vicious cycle.

What can you do for your dog to prevent and/or manage obesity?

Contact your veterinarian.

Your veterinarian is your best resource for canine weight loss and control. They will recommend a specific food and portion per day and will provide guidance on how to deliver that portion based on lifestyle, convenience and your dog’s individual needs. If there is already evidence of osteoarthritis, reducing inflammation and pain will encourage your dog to become more active, which in turn will speed appropriate weight loss.

Treat your dog to a canine massage. Massaging increases circulation, which is important because it feeds tissues and muscles that have been damaged by joint degeneration.  It breaks up adhesion’s that tends to form in the connective tissue of a stiff arthritic dog. Gentle manipulation of the tissues and muscles reduces pain, inflammation, muscle spasms and stiffness. Constricted muscles and tissues around the joints are loosened, allowing increased mobility when stretching the limbs, in addition to  increased range of motion, flexibility and mobility.

Walk your dog.  A recent survey found that only half of dog owners walk their dog at least once a day.  Thirty-three percent (33%) of those surveyed even admitted they rarely walk their dogs. Walking has many benefits for people and dogs.  Studies have shown that a 30 thirty minute walk, three times per week can reduce blood pressure, increase energy, improve sense of well-being, and lower a person’s weight by five percent (5%) and a dogs by fifteen percent (15%).

Five reasons you and your dog can benefit from daily walks:.

Strengthens Your Bond. Daily walks provide quality time for you and your dog. This time is extremely important to your dog’s behavioral development and will provide the foundation for a trusting relationship.

Assists with Weight Control. Heading out on a nice, long walk can help keep those extra pounds away for year-long health.

Improves Socialization. Walks are a great way for you and your dog to experience the world together. Adventure to new places; take in the sights and smells around you. You’ll be surprised at what you’ve been missing.

Increases Physical and Mental Health. Humans and dogs have several health issues that can be prevented or treated by regular exercise and a healthy diet. Not to mention the extra activity is great for overcoming dog boredom. Your dog will be happy and you’ll be thankful for the improved behaviors around the house.

Decreases Loneliness. Solitary walks (for people) or sitting in the backyard (for the dog) can get pretty lonely. Quality walks with your dog can reduce feelings of loneliness for you and your dog.



During my recent Foundation Level workshop, I had the pleasure of visiting the Toledo Humane Society where I had the opportunity to massage an adorable Basset Hound/Beagle mix named Angel. Angel was a bit overweight for her short, little body. She really seemed to enjoy the rocking and compressions to her hips and shoulders. The science described in this research paper applies to dogs like Angel. The prevention and management strategies described in this paper can improve Angle’s quality of life and prolong her life.

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