top of page

OBESITY in dogs; trickle-down effect from humans to Huskies (Part I and Part II)

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

Original post: December 1, 2010

Obesity is a growing problem; and one that has a trickle-down effect – from humans to Huskies. Statistics indicate that as many as 25 – 30% of North Americans are obese, and our pets are taking after us. A fat dog is an unhealthy dog, one more prone to diabetes, heart disease, joint problems and a host of other conditions that can make life harder, if not shorter.

OBESITY in dogs; trickle-down effect from humans to Huskies (Part I and Part II)

As our pets are brought more intimately into the family setting they begin to adopt our lifestyles and with this they also begin to experience our lifestyle-related ailments. Fatness presents the same health risks in our pets as it does in the human population. Ultimately, fatness lowers life quality. Since our pets age faster than we do, we can’t waste time procrastinating about what to do and when.

Research demonstrates irrefutably that the fat mass of the body interacts much like our organs do, sending out feedback biochemicals. These hormones and hormone-like substances are now shown to contribute to the inflammatory activity in the body in addition to the more commonly known interaction of these compounds with stress hormones (corticosteroids) and insulin. The long term result of this unhealthy activity is premature aging and unnecessary disease. The secondary consequences like diabetes, chronic inflammation, and cerebro- and cardio-vascular diseases develop at a faster pace in our companion canines than they do in us because of a metabolism that operates at a naturally higher rate.

The most common cause of obesity is over feeding and under-exercise. However, there’s another common contributor that’s often not considered. Calories are not calories. In other words, some nutrients deliver their caloric value in a form that is less likely to contribute to fatness. Some nutrients are used as building blocks for lean tissues. Some nutritional fats are used as cell membrane building blocks, hormones and cofactors for metabolic activity. The way a food is formulated and proportioned influences how insulin responds to it in the body.

This insulogenic response (insulin activity to the food) can influence whether the food calories are used efficiently as energy or whether they are shuttled immediately to fat storage. Grain-rich or carbohydrate-rich foods are not tolerated well by most dogs contributing to this insulinogenic overload. If this influence is applied day after day it can cause the metabolic problem (insulin resistance) that leads to fatness, diabetes and that inflammatory cloud throughout the body. In fact, our dogs are less capable of tolerating carbohydrate loaded foods than we are. And we know how the carbohydrate phenomenon has taken the human population by storm to cause an ever escalating rate of obesity, diabetes and other insulin-related illnesses including chronic inflammation.

Food quality factors into the fatness problem just as much as unnecessary food volume or calories do. Grain-free foods are less likely to contribute to obesity and are required as part of the treatment. Few cases of obesity are actually caused by thyroid and other hormone imbalances or insufficiencies. Your lifestyle choices are the most likely cause. Obesity also doesn’t develop suddenly so it’s not like we wake up one morning with a condition that we have little or no control over. It’s a progressive result of lifestyle choices we make for our pets and because these choices are based on our own personal philosophies, guardian fatness tends to parallel the pet’s obesity.

OBESITY in dogs; trickle-down effect from humans to Huskies (Part I and Part II)

Our pets are the ‘coal mine canaries’ of our chosen lifestyle. Not only is their level of physical and mental activity limited to that of our own, but their eating patterns and selections are also chosen by us. The exciting thing is that our pets can give us some insight in to our own destinies and an initiative to change the health of our pets will benefit us in much the same way. The solution is rather simple: a combination of a better, more nutrient-dense diet that’s void of unnecessary caloric and glycemic fillers; appropriate supplements that help restore metabolic efficiency; and exercise.

With your dog, there are no will power or motivation challenges. Humans have complete control over and the responsibility for the quality and quantity of what their pets eat. We also dictate what the exercise programs will be. And don’t let your pet fool you with those begging eyes when the new food source and supplements you feed might not be what they desire.

Your pet is not likely to experience harm if he refuses a meal. Once they know, you mean business and are not giving in to their request for processed junk food they’ll take what they get. Your pet will not starve himself. Treat your companion like you would guide your child. If you gave your child the choice between a bowl of ice cream and a bowl of healthy oatmeal for breakfast, they’d likely choose the ice cream. I know my children would.

However, if the oatmeal was left as the only source of breakfast without an option, the healthy choice is quickly appreciated. You’re in charge; you are responsible for setting the lifestyle. I’m also betting that when you see the quick transformation in fitness your pet experiences in just several weeks, you’ll be inspired to include more and more dietary changes of your own. Tips on how you can accomplish this are available in my new book POTENTIAL WITHIN Your Dog’s Health. Available at

There are a variety of ways to accomplish better fitness for you and your pet. No, this doesn’t mean your dog’s about to get under the barbell to do some reps on the bench press. Allow your pet’s much needed lifestyle change to improve your own. If you work together you both stand a better chance of success.

When it comes to your own state of fitness, keep in mind that it’s not about looking like the artificially touched up fitness or fashion model on the cover of popular magazines. Whole fitness starts with fitness of mind. Mind fitness begins to develop the day you decide to do something about physical fitness. It’s about self-esteem and self worth and it is seeded long before you begin to reap the physical benefits of your exercise program.

This initialization by change in your own mindset sets in motion the potential for healthy body. Just doing something about your health and that of your pet’s changes mind and body health the very second you start. The extra physical activity outside the home and beyond your yard also helps stimulate your pet’s senses. The new sights, smells and paths invigorate your pet and improve state of mind for him too.

Look down at your furry companion to see how enthusiastic he is to please you. A new very important role is about to emerge for your companion; a role that might even be your saving grace. Say hello to your new training partner and source of inspiration to change your lifestyle.

Fitness Action Plan:

In addition to the following exercise and dietary recommendations a metabolic jumpstart can be applied in the form of nutraceuticals that improve your dog’s spontaneous ability to manage body fat. In fact, these same guidelines will serve you well on your personal quest.

FOOD: Improve nutrient density and avoid unnecessary calories. This requires careful evaluation of food sources to eliminate grain and maximize whole meat sources in the ingredient list. Whole muscle meat sources should be the first ingredient making up at least 50% of the recipe volume; with above ground vegetables as the recommended primary vegetable sources. Avoid grains such as corn, wheat and rice and even avoid oats if obesity is a challenge. Avoid ‘meal’ in the ingredient list such as ‘chicken meal’ and ‘beef meal’. Changing to a properly balanced raw food often serves your pet well.

FOUNDATION SUPPLEMENTATION: BioFATS and BioVITES: Supplementing a food with essential fatty acids and conditionally essential fats helps jumpstart metabolism. These specialized polyunsaturated fats are crucial building blocks for cell membranes and important hormones involved in the regulation of inflammation and fat metabolism. Adding vitamin/mineral supplements to the meal improves nutrient density and helps control satiety and appetite. It also helps improve lean muscle status and metabolic efficiency. A sufficient supply of minerals, vitamins and phytoantioxidants supports energy, stamina, strength and recovery from day-to-day wear and tear.

BioSLIM: If fatness has been long lasting, metabolic problems can begin to develop (insulin resistance, thyroid deficiency, thermogenic shut down and neurological and emotional insufficiencies) to make it difficult to shed the extra pounds. Contrary to common belief, as much as these hormone deficiencies and the metabolic shortfalls can cause obesity, most often they develop as a result of obesity. In other words, fatness creates the chemistry in the body that actually makes it difficult to shed the unwanted pounds.

BioSLIM is designed to jumpstart these natural fat-regulating mechanisms (multiples of them) to help restore metabolic efficiency and spontaneous fat management. This phenomenon is outlined in my new book if more detail is desired; POTENTIAL WITHIN Your Dog’s Health. Available at

This website will also include articles on human wellness that detail the ingredient required for your own metabolic jumpstarts. These differ in type and proportion from your pet’s.

EXERCISE: Engaging in regular exercise with your pet such as variable terrain walks is critical to your health and that of your pet’s. Variable terrain walks that also incorporate varying paces make as resistance training to help build and maintain muscle. Muscle is metabolically active and supports healthy body fat proportions. Exercise also improves insulin efficiency to help restore general health. For humans, having an exercise buddy is great motivation, not to mention more fun. For dogs, it is absolutely critical. They are bred to accompany us and appease us and nothing makes them happier than to just spend time and interact with their human pack members. Exercise and other activities you can engage in with your pet are discussed in POTENTIAL WITHIN Your Dog’s Health

Getting with the program; fitness for you and your pet.

Here’s what I did today to change up my training program. With an eight pound dumbbell in one hand and the dog’s leash in the other, I ran to the park where trails provide for some variable terrain (hills) with different degrees of climb. The road leading to the park is relatively flat so as I ran slowly, I proceeded with the weight work.

Go to for the full story>

Training Day with Fido.

By Franco Cavaleri BSc Nutritional Biochemist , Mr IFBB North America

While running, I curled twenty reps with the dumbbell to work the biceps; then immediately did twenty reps of upright triceps extension; and then about twenty reps of lateral extensions for shoulder work; another twenty reps of straight arm front raises; and immediately after that I did upright dumbbell shoulder press. All the while, I ran to the park.

The weight is very light but as I progress through the high rep work, the running adds to the resistance muscle work due to the mild impact. This impact contributes to the muscle fatigue. As the weight moves outward to the side or forward general core work to the midsection of my body is noticeable.

The key is in carefully controlling the weight so not to strain the joints. You will have to be the judge of how much weight you can safely use. This program works wonders because the running movement forces the need to control the weight at all times. This imposes constant work right through the entire range of the movement when curling to work the biceps or pressing the weight to work triceps and shoulders. This strategy also results in tighter contraction as each step in the run further intensifies the contracted muscle.

This is not the principle I used to build an IFBB Mr. North America physique but it is the program I used occasionally to mix it up three to four times per month. Today, I use this more often as part of my training program because cardio-fitness is more a focus than muscle building. This unconventional exercise strategy helps build strong joints since the support muscles and tendons are forced to assist the movement of the weight in the plane of the run’s direction. If this program is applied regularly and in a controlled manner, the long term outcome is a lower risk for joint and tendon injury due to the adapting support muscles and tendons that compensate for the lateral movements.

Once the circuit was completed with one arm, I switched the weight to the other hand and exchanged it for the dog’s leash. I repeated the cycle with the left arm this time. Once completed and without rest, I exchanged the weight for the leash and repeated the cycle again with the right arm.

I have done this with a ten or twelve pound weight as well and it is definitely much harder. There is a point where the workload is too difficult to maintain throughout the whole run or walk. I found this to be the case with a fifteen pound dumbbell for me. It starts out feeling pretty light but it gets heavy as the run or walk advances.

On this occasion with the eight pound weight, I managed to cycle through the superset, three times per side. Upon reaching my intended destination – the first hill- I put the weight down and sprinted up (50-60 yards/meters) the hill with Diesel, my trusty Jack Russell by my side. This was followed by a walk down to the bottom. The walk or run up helps build good back end muscle for my dog. The walk down the hill helps build good front end muscle for Diesel. Of course, until this point the running program is continuous with no rest.

I maintained steady with the continuous cardiovascular work while stimulating the muscles with the light resistance weight work. Upon completing this hill climbing segment of the program, I immediately picked up my dumbbell, my pooch by my side and still on his leash, and continued on to the next hill on the route.

This hill happens to have a lower grade so I ran up this (about 50 yards / meters) one holding the eight pound weight. I repeated this up and down cycle four times; the weight two times on each hand. When running with a weight in hand, I make certain to hold the weight against or as close to my side or stomach. The weight should be kept at the center of gravity as much as possible if the running pace is fast. This prevents the weight from bouncing around and jolting the body and stride offline. The centering reduces the chance of isolated strains. Upon completing this I continued without any rest to run back home.

I repeated the cycles of one-arm supersets while running home. This time I completed only two supersets per side but I picked up the pace from the pace I ran on the way there. With the pace faster, I didn’t extend the weight out too far out or up to full arm extension to prevent joint strain. The whole program only took me forty minutes. This was good for me but wasn’t quite enough for my dog. On another occasion, I might run the pace faster on the way there and do more hills to induce some fatigue for me. I might use a lighter weight or none at all. I might throw the ball up the hill several times for my dog to allow him the extra ‘fetch’ work he might need while allowing for some rest for me in between the first intense half and the fast paced run back home.

Changing the workouts contributes to anabolic drive by preventing the body from adapting to the workload and work style. If we cause the body to strive for adaptation at all times, it is more likely to continue to advance. These adaptation principles can be applied to resistance training programs such as weight training as well as cardiovascular training programs such as running or cycling. Another way to give fido some extra work is to ride your bicycle at a pace that’s comfortable for your dog. Be aware that your dog is wearing a coat and will be working quite a bit harder than you if you are on a bicycle. Work together safely and prevent heat exhaustion or dehydration.

The neat thing is that you get to achieve measurable fitness goals with your pet and it doesn’t have to get complicated. On some occasions just walk; on others run; others again, ride your bike. On some runs take the hills and on others keep it simple on a flat path. Once or twice per week incorporate the dumbbell work I’ve described above. Whatever you decide to do each day, your pet is right by your side enjoying the opportunity to get out, stimulate the senses and get fit and healthy with you.

Start slow and keep it simple. Most importantly enjoy your relationship and bond with your dog and make this focus the new reason to stay with your program if you can’t stay consistent with the program at the gym.


bottom of page