Why Older Dogs Get Fat

Obesity is a very big problem in our society, and this problem goes for dogs as well. All dogs are susceptible to gaining weight as they become less active in old age. But some breeds have been reported to be more likely to become obese than others as they watch the birthdays fly by. West Highland white terriers, beagles, cocker spaniels, collies. cairn terriers, and retrievers are breeds that are noted for obesity in old age.

Older dogs are about twice as likely to be overweight as younger dogs, probably because of genetic factors as well as people feeding them high-calorie treats from the table. Also, smaller dogs can run around the house for exercise, but larger dogs need to be taken out. Because most dogs depend on people to take them out, it doesn’t always get done.

As adult dogs become elderly, a number of factors limit their exercise – including their physical and physiological condition (and perhaps that of their owners as well, if the owners are also slowing down a bit). So, lack of exercise coupled with the same amount of treats as they had when they were younger can lead to obese pets. Female dogs are more likely to be obese than male dogs and cats, and spayed animals are more likely to be obese than reproductively intact ones.

Here’s an interesting statistic: Pet owners who are 40 years old and older are more than twice as likely to have obese dogs as younger owners are. Not only are the owners getting older and probably less fit, but so are their pets! Further, about one-third of owners of obese dogs do not consider their dogs to be overweight; they consider their dogs to be in the normal range of weight.

I suppose the worst-case scenario would be a couple of spayed female Labrador retrievers who are about 14 years old, living with elderly “nurturing” (literally – with food) owners. Both the owners and their dogs are arthritic and overweight, with poor aerobic conditioning. Or maybe the owners smoke and have shortness of breath with even moderate exercise, and they enjoy fried foods and feed their dogs from the table or the couch (of course) or from anywhere else in the house. The owners equate feeding the dogs with giving them love. It’s the proverbial “recipe for disaster”! So do anything you can do to prevent your dogs from getting fat and out of shape. This may also be a good reason to watch your own levels of activity and diet.