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Obesity is a disorder describing the condition of fat reserves unorderly growing around organs such that the cardiovascular system cannot adequately fulfil its role.

Thus note that Obesity is not a disease as so widely misunderstood and therefore not brought under control either.

Also note that looking fat is not required for Obesity: even a thin-looking dog or person may suffer the disorder Obesity if fat reserves unorderly grow in visceral tissue.

In other words, Obesity is not "the superlative of overweight": wink

Overweight is a relative measure: "As compared to other individuals, how does the weight relate to height?"

This is conveniently expressed as Body Mass Index (BMI) which is universally expressed in units of kg divided by the square of body height in meters (kg/m²).

And although the BMI does have a top range being called "obese" (for people an index over 30), note that the BMI "obese" is just a label given to an "index much higher than in other individuals".

Obesity is an absolute measure: "Do fat reserves in a particular individual grow around organs such that the cardiovascular system cannot adequately fulfil its role?"

Or in plain English: Can the heart efficiently pump blood throughout the entire body?

Or does the bloodstream have to "work through" an excessive amount of fat cells before it reaches all organ cells, such that the overworked heart wears out quickly?

If you agree with this definition of Obesity versus overweight then we can move on.

MyGermanShepherd Health ManualMuch like for people, the seemingly inoffensive Obesity is one of the most serious health problems that dogs get:

As many as 40% of domestic dogs suffer from Obesity and concurrent illness like Pancreatitis, although almost all cases are preventable!

Who suffers from Obesity

Obesity is not inherited as so widely believed: The many genes that have been linked to Obesity may help trigger Obesity, but note that genes are a trigger for everything, including that we breathe!

Critical is that no individual gene has been identified that would lead to Obesity in every individual. And only then that gene would be the cause, only then Obesity would be inherited.

So really, Obesity is acquired, Obesity is a disorder.

The cause of Obesity most times simply is a wrong diet, and insufficient exercise will then trigger Obesity.

What is wrong with the diet to cause Obesity?

There are more reasons but the two key reasons are:

  1. too much carbohydrates in industial "pet food" and overall in all commercial "pet food", because carbohydrates are cheapest and so can be added in bulk. While say meat cannot because it's costly and would eat away from the producer's profit. Surprise: Carbohydrates are fattening, not fat.
  2. too much antibiotics in farm feed, and so in the meat from the livestock of the farms. Antibiotics are growth promoters: they make livestock fatter, more valuable on sale. For this reason in the USA antibiotics are added to the farm feed. In the EU this is forbidden and heavily punished if caught.

Meaning, the more meat you feed - either within industrial "pet food" or as "raw meat diet" - the more of the harmful and fattening antibiotics your dog will consume without that you know. Well, now you know, others still don't.

Even where antibiotics are not mixed into farm feed, if the dog diet is industrial "pet food" then any "meat" in it will be that of diseased animals because that is cheapest or rather entirely free.

Diseased animals of course have received the most copious amounts of antibiotics and steroids and NSAIDs during their lifetime in an attempt to keep them productive.

This is why industrial "dog food" and "dog treats" can easily cause Obesity. Carbohydrates and antibiotics lead to fat reserves unorderly growing around organs such that the cardiovascular system cannot adequately fulfil its role.

If a dog remains obese for months or even years, the dog will start having trouble with basic exercise, develop breathing problems, and mid-term may suffer from Pancreatitis, Diabetes, Heart Disorders, Kidney failure, or other organ failure.

Are German Shepherds at risk of Obesity too?

tiny-space-in-tiny-house-for-large-dogNot as much as dogs in general, no. Because GSDs are high metabolism herding dogs, and IF you let them exercise freely as much as they want then GSDs generally will not become obese.

Problem is: My German Shepherd no longer has enough space to exercise indoors at all, and outdoors in rain I avoid it because a wet dirty dog in a tiny house is beyond what you can imagine...

And the problem with many other busy dog owners is: their dog isn't comprehensively house-trained and so when they are at work all day, the dog can't be safely left FREE while alone at home. A caged dog can't exercise.

The largest GSD study of its kind, Dan O'Neill's analysis of VetCompass data, reviewed all 263 conditions distinctly recorded by veterinarians in primary care in the UK, and only 5.2% of the GSDs had been diagnosed as "obese or overweight".

Meaning, at least among all UK German Shepherds, actual Obesity is even much less common: most of the diagnosed dogs of course were merely overweight.

Warning Signs

Early warning signs of Obesity are:

  • Shortness of breath - exceeding 10 minutes after exercise ended, even when lying down
  • Slow to get up - without the existence of a physical ailment, and before 10 years of age
  • General listlessness and lethargy
  • Dog training is based on treats rather than praise
  • Dog diet is industrial "dog food", and meals are served at irregular times or worse, left out all day.

Note that although the physical appearance of a dog, or reading scales and comparing that to breed standards, may provide a suggestion whether the dog is obese, from a biological perspective Obesity strictly is an out-of-balance set of factors of the metabolism and organs.

In other words, to our eyes a dog may not appear obese, nonetheless the dog may be obese in a medical sense (and vice versa).

That's why a quality vet won't just look at the dog or compare scale readings, but they will examine the dog and consider factors like blood pressure and constitution, heart rate at rest and under load, dog meals, meal times, and feeding routine, exercise regime, living environment, etc.

Also note that even if say, you serve your dog only 1% more calories than the dog needs for your exercise regime then the dog can suffer from Obesity within less than a year!

We now have for you an indicative Online GSD Health Assessment or GSD Health Profile that you can - should use for your dog to get a valuable third-party opinion on your dog's current health situation.

Without forking out a hundred dollar on a vet visit where not needed for other reasons.

Preventing Obesity

1The easiest way to prevent Obesity is to serve the dog two or three smaller, varied homemade dog meals a day, either in the best Eat-Slow bowl f or in the best metal Eat-Slow bowl f.

Because a) eating slowly b) at regular times c) homemade REAL food meals with a naturally high water content makes the dog feel full quicker and dramatically improves nutrient absorption.

Ultimately the dog will eat less than the dog otherwise will, and given even only the same amount of exercise, the dog will stay lean and fit.

2real-dog-food_meal-today_chicken-rice-peas-champignons-apple-kefirAvoid all commercial "dog treats" and convenience food table scraps. Only feed REAL food table scraps.

3Don't let the dog scavenge - whether indoors or outdoors.

4Weigh your dog on a monthly basis, and put the weight in relation to your exercise regime and its changes. Then if you have a GSD update your dog's details in our dog lifestyle database, thanks. bow

5By all means, don't make giving treats a daily routine. Rather consider dog treats like human presents. How often will you give the same person a present?

Don't compare dog treats with our human tendency to consume snacks during the day (or even during the night).

Dog treats are neither a nutritional substitute for a wrong diet, nor a sign of the love or affection you feel towards your dog.

If you really want to provide the best nutrition and show your love or affection towards your dog, stick to homemade dog meals at regular meal times with a consistent feeding routine. The meal preparation alone improves the bonding from the dog's perspective, as site member Mark also confirmed after switching to REAL food homemade meals.

The later you introduce your dog to getting treats,

  1. the healthier for the dog
  2. and the easier the dog training
  3. and the more unlikely that you will face dog behavior problems

In fact, in every regard, food treats can be entirely substituted with praise, patting, and real-life rewards: an action the dog desires. For example:

  • to let the dog sniff on the ground for as long as the dog wants to sniff
  • to provide the dog with extended outdoor exercise
  • to involve the dog in games like catch, fetch, jump etc
  • to let the dog out for an immediate walk
  • to let the dog run off-leash in safe areas
  • to provide a comfy place near you in addition to the dog's crate place
  • etc.

Treating Obesity

Likewise, the easiest way to treat an existing condition of Obesity is to reintroduce the advice given above.

Remember that if you enter accurate data then our Online GSD Health Assessment gives pretty detailed dog weight and dietary suggestions, including a BMI derived suggestion whether the dog is at risk of Obesity (more than a suggestion would require a vet consultation).

So feel free to use the Online GSD Health Assessment frequently, whenever your dog changes materially.

Conversely, never give drugs or supplements to manage Obesity or mere overweight: that would cause a chain reaction of seemingly unrelated illness symptoms, making everything only worse!



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