Senior Dogs: How To Handle Weight Gain
Chase Correll | August 22 2018
Has your pup grown a bit long in the tooth? Weight gain in dogs often coincides with aging, and is often difficult to deal with. If your senior dog has packed on some extra poundage, aging has likely played a considerable role. However old your pup, weight gain in aging dogs is resolvable. This article aims to aid senior dog owners who are worried about their fur baby’s weight gain, and to quell some of those worries with beneficial information.
Watch The Diet
Aging dogs often struggle with weight gain due to their declining activity levels. A poor diet often compounds this decrease in activity, leading to a gain in weight. Weight gain in senior dogs can lead to further health issues, especially joint issues, because the extra load only adds more strain to the dog’s older body.
Poor diet doesn’t necessarily mean your pup isn’t getting the right nutrients, but more so that it may not be eating the right type of food for their age and activity levels. Some common symptoms of weight gain caused by poor diet are dull eyes, dry fur, diarrhea/constipation, low energy levels, and behavioral changes: like random spurts of hyperactivity. Weight gain caused by poor diet is a slow burn: it doesn’t happen overnight. If you notice any of the listed symptoms above, or if your old pup is getting a little chunkier as the days go by, then consider changing its dog food. When changing your pup’s food, look for a food that targets his age and weight range. For example, if your fur baby is 11 and weighs 45 pounds, then an ideal dog food is a dog food for medium weight, senior dogs. These foods are made with older dog’s in mind, and are more suitable for aging dogs with lower activity and metabolism levels.
Overweight Doggy Diseases
Dog’s and humans alike can suffer from thyroid issues that lead to weight gain. The thyroid gland helps manufacture hormones that control metabolism levels. If the thyroid’s manufacturing of these hormones becomes decreased, then weight gain can result. This decrease in thyroid activity is called, “Hypothyroidism.”
Hypothyroidism occurs most often in middle to older aged dogs and is more common in medium to large breeds. However, any dog of any age or size can have an underactive thyroid.
If your pup appears to have gained some extra weight, look for common symptoms of hypothyroidism: fatigue, muscle and joint stiffness, sensitivity to cold, and constipation. A pup exhibiting any of these symptoms should be taken to its vet for a check up. Only blood tests can officially confirm hypothyroidism. Don’t worry though, medication will reverse an underactive thyroid and your dog’s health will be back to normal in no time.
Another disease contributing to weight gain in our furry friends is Cushing’s Disease. Like Hypothyroidism, this disease affects hormone levels. However with Cushing’s Disease, there is an overabundance of a certain hormone, called cortisol, that leads to weight gain. When too much cortisol is in your pup’s system, your pup goes into fat storing mode. This slows down your senior dog’s metabolism and leads to unnecessary fat storage: leading to weight gain, overall. Monitor your dog’s feeding habits, like increased appetite or increased thirst, and also watch out for loss of muscle, increased urination, “pot belly,” and hair loss. All of these symptoms point to a possible case of Cushing’s Disease. A simple blood test will diagnose this disease, which is treatable with medication.
Elder pups are also more susceptible to diabetes, which can also lead to weight gain. If your pup shows signs of lethargy, increased thirst, and increased urination, then take the ole fella to the vet for a check up.
Other Causes For Weight Gain
While stress can ail dogs of any age, stress eating remains a cause for concern for senior dogs because they lack the proper activity level and metabolism to counteract the increase in calories.
Older dogs often take medication for many reasons. Doggy medications like anti-inflammatories, corticosteroids, or antidepressants can lead to weight gain.
While all dogs are at risk to gain weight as they age, certain breeds of dogs are more prone to weight gain in their twilight years. Labrador Retrievers, Basset Hounds, Rottweilers, Spaniels, Beagles, Saint Bernards, Pugs, Bulldogs, and Dachshunds all have a greater risk of gaining weight as they age.
One Last Thing
One thing you may have noticed is that lethargy, eating habits, and potty habits are fairly common symptoms for weight gain. This may concern you that you won’t be able to figure out your dog’s cause for weight gain; don’t worry though, that’s the vet’s problem to solve. All that’s required of you is to continue to pay close care to your elderly pup’s habits, and take it to the vet for a check up if there are any causes for concern.