Lifestyle diseases are getting more and more common in dogs. In this blog we go through why there is such a rise in lifestyle diseases in dogs and what you can do to keep your dog healthy throughout his/her entire life.
The dog was domesticated 15.000-32.000 years ago. With domestication we have seen many behavioral changes as our dogs adapt to our way of living. It started with us humans going from migrants to settlers, then we started farming the lands and then cities began to rise all over the world.
Our dogs have followed us faithfully from the very beginning of their domestication, where a wolf had her pups in a settlement and the pups where taken in by a human.
In previous blog posts I have talked about how the domestication have affected our dogs’ emotional development (Emotions in dogs) and how the relation between humans and dogs have evolved (The relation between human and dog – how strong is it really?), but how has the domestication affected their physical needs? And how do their physical needs today affect their behavior?
Life in the fast lane increase the risk of lifestyle disease
Lifestyle diseases in humans has been a problem ever since we started to urbanize our lives. Humans exercise less and the range of fast food that is continuously popping up for our convenience, leads to less and less home cooked wholesome meals. Our lives are stressed, and grabbing something to go on the way to and from work or our many activities, is often the easiest fix to silent our hunger.
This stressful lifestyle we are carrying are not only affecting us negatively in the range of different lifestyle diseases, it is also affecting our dogs.
Dogs used to roam around on the farm, following the farmer as he went about his business. Sometimes, getting lucky and snatching a bone from the recent slaughter of a cow. Nowadays, our dogs are left at home for several hours each day. We pour their kibble in a bowl for them once or twice a day and take them on the mandatory walk around the blog. The rest of the time is spent inside four walls, probably snoozing on the couch. It is not surprising that next time you take your dog to his/her annual vet check he/she has gained 5 kilos and your vet gives you disapproving looks.
It is estimated that one in three dogs suffers from obesity, and with obesity, just like in us humans, we can say hello to diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, breathing problems, skin problems and heart disease, just to mention some.
While humans often develop type 2 diabetes due to their unhealthy diet, dogs often develop type 1 diabetes, which demands that they get insulin. The arthritis aches in their bones due to carrying around so much weight for an extensive amount of time, while the extra weight has also caused pressure on their lungs making it hard to breathe properly, also affecting the heart as it struggles with the extra kilos surrounding it. Not to mention the itchy scaly skin that just makes life very uncomfortable. It is a grim picture for sure, but sadly the news that our dogs are overweight are surprising to many.
With love comes food, right?
We feel bad for leaving our dogs for so long so we give them that little extra to nipple on, so they will know that we love them. We want to walk them more, but we just haven’t gotten around to it and taking the normal route around the blog keeps us from spending too much energy.
The diseases will automatically affect our dog’s behavior. Pain can alter a dog’s behavior to the unrecognizable and your once so sweet pooch can turn into an aggressive, angry terror. Obesity can limit your dog’s mobility to a point where he/she won’t even bother fetching the ball you just threw as the effort is simply too much. You might think they are just lazy or don’t like the ball, but maybe it is because they simply don’t have the energy to play as their heart is already working overtime to keep the regular body functions going.
How to minimize the risk of a lifestyle disease
Here is the silver lining.
By exercising your dog more you not only help your dog, you also help yourself. Studies have shown that dog owners who walk their dogs daily for at least 30 minutes are less likely to develop heart diseases and diabetes. By walking your dog, you lower your blood pressure and are less likely to develop depression and then it of course keeps those extra kilos around your tummy at bay.
Dogs need a healthy balanced diet, lots of exercise and enrichment to keep both their body and mind healthy. If your dog is suffering from overweight have a chat with your vet to learn about the best kibble to feed and how much exercise they estimate your dog needs on a daily basis. Then make a schedule for your dog to make sure you comply with the recommendations both in regard to their food and their daily exercise. Remember no feeding them table scraps. Instead use the many enrichment ideas here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1k6j-eStlk0&list=PLKSDzqanrS38ahzYGg79Hyz5VeTCTmFRU)
to come up with new ways to enrich your dog’s mind while giving them that little extra exercise they get from working for their food.
Have fun and keep up the exercise!