Pet Obesity

Is your pet overweight?

The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention estimates that more than 50 percent of American pets are obese. Many of these animals suffer from a wide range of health problems associated with their excessive weight, such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

Just as good health is important for people, it is also vital to your animal’s well-being. Remember that proper nutrition, including a balanced diet, can lead to increased energy, shinier coats and a longer lifespan.

How do I know if my pet is overweight?

Veterinarians use body condition scores to determine whtether or not your pet is overweight. Typically, your veterinarian will check your pet’s weight during a routine appointment. If your pet is overweight, your veterinarian will give you tips to help your pet drop a few pounds.

If you are between vet appointments, there are a few simple things you can do to determine if your pet needs to lose weight. Look at the shape of your pet’s body and feel its ribs. If your animal’s body is in ideal condition, you will be able to feel its ribs easily. Additionally, you should not feel much fat on your pet’s bones. When you look at your pet from above, you should be able to see the animal’s waist easily. If it is hard to feel your pet’s ribs and their waist is not easy to see, then your pet is most likely overweight.

What health problems are associated with obesity?

Obesity can cause many different health problems in cats and dogs. These medical issues can cause both a decreased quality and length of the pet’s life. Health problems associated with obesity include:

  • an increased risk of diabetes
  • decreased liver function (due to fat accumulation in the liver)
  • increased skin problems (due to the inability to adequately groom themselves and the development of skin folds)
  • an increased incidence of high blood pressure or hypertension
  • an increased risk of heart problems (because the heart has to work harder in an obese pet)
  • difficulty breathing adn decreased stamina
  • heat intolerance (which can make an obese dog more likely to have a heat stroke)
  • increased surgical and anesthetic risk
  • increased risk of arthritis and joint problems (this is particularly a problem in dogs with hip dysplasia, knee problems and in breeds like dachshunds that are prone to intervertebral disc disease, also known as IVDD).

How do I help my pet lose weight?

While helping your pet lose weight may seem difficult, we recommend a few easy tips to help cut the calories:

  • Cut back on treats or feed your pet healthy treats, such as carrots.
  • Do not feed your pet table scraps.
  • Do not free feed. Feed your pets a measured amount of food recommended for their ideal body weight. See the bag, can or box of your pet’s food for feeding guidelines.
  • Consider switching your pet to a lower calorie, lower fat food so that they can have a decent portion with less calories. You can discuss recommended diets with your family veterinarian.
  • Increase daily excercise by including additional walk and play times. If your dog is obese, you will need to ease the animal back into activity and increase your pet’s stamina (particularly if it has joint problems). Make sure to watch your pet for cues of heat exhaustion, such as heavy panting or hugging and puffing. Stop exercising immediately if you notice symptoms of heat exhaustion.
  • Daily exercise can be a little trickier if you have a cat. Try incorporating daily play sessions with your feline, like chasing a laser pointer or playing with feathers on a string.