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Canine Obesity! An interview with Dr Christopher McIver

Dr Chris McIver is the Head of the Small Animal Veterinary Unit, University Veterinary Teaching Hospital, Camden.

He has kindly donated his time to give us this interview.


K9PRO Q: What are the most common injuries or health problems you see in dogs at your clinic?

There are a number of common complaints and health issues that we see on a daily basis. Lameness, obesity, dental disease and flea allergies are certainly high on the list of problems and are, fortunately, mostly avoidable.

K9PRO Q: What can dog owners do to help prevent these injuries/problems from occurring?

Chris McIver Head of Small Animal unit Camden Veterinary University

Basic preventative medicine is at the root of all good animal care. A good, high quality food fed in appropriate quantities will certainly help with lameness and obesity problems. Very often dogs can carry too much weight and their legs and joints just can’t cope and this leads to problems such as arthritis and ligament damage. Regular exercise is also incredibly important, not just for maintaining a healthy weight but also for the dog’s psychological state – they love their walks and love to spend time with their owners. It also helps to keep all the muscles fit and less likely to injure.

Dental disease can be managed by daily brushing which can require a lot of dedication to accomplish. There are other simpler ways to help such as the daily addition of ‘Plaque off’ to their food which is a seaweed extract that once absorbed into the body is secreted into the saliva and helps neutralize the bacteria that cause plaque acid. There are also dental diets and dental chews and mouth washes and wipes.

Fleas are a big problem in Australia but fortunately there are a number of products out there to help prevent them. There are monthly tablets, spot-ons and sprays. You should seek advice from your vet to find the best product for you.

K9PRO Q: How common is canine obesity and what health risks do overweight or obese dogs face?

Unfortunately canine obesity is all too common. We do see this on a daily basis and studies suggest that between 25% and 40% of adult dogs are overweight. For us, it can be one of the most difficult problems to discuss with owners as no-one likes to hear that their dog is fat. Obese dogs face a number of problems including: insulin resistance diabetes; osteoarthritis; heart disease; and most worryingly, a reduced lifespan.

K9PRO Q: How can a dog owner tell if their dog is overweight or obese?

Most people do not recognize that their dog is overweight. It is easiest done by looking at the ribs and the waist. If you can feel the ribs without an excess of fat covering them then that is good. The waist should be tucked up when viewed from side. If you can feel a lot of fat over the chest, spine and tail base and there is no sign of a tucked up waist, then your dog is overweight.

K9PRO Q: What do you recommend owners do to help their dog lose weight and remain fit and healthy?

If your dog is overweight then it is no good just to reduce the food and hope to lose the weight. There needs to be a complete lifestyle change and it needs to be done gradually. Far too often the reason for a dog being overweight is the owner’s lack of time for exercise or that the dog won’t eat anything except human food.

Dogs need regular exercise. I would suggest twice daily. Before work and after work.

Why not make it a family event?

Personally, I enjoy walking the dog on my own and find it very therapeutic.
Feed a good healthy diet.

Be honest with yourself, how many treats are you giving to your best friend? Why not try a prescription obesity diet?

Once your dog has lost the weight then it needs to maintained by keeping to your new exercise and feeding regime.

Don’t slip back into old bad habits.

Dr Chris McIver with Sophie the Lab

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