What is obesity in pets?
Obesity is a nutritional disease which is defined by an excess of body fat. Pets that eat too much, lack the ability to exercise, or that have a tendency to retain weight are the most at risk for becoming obese.
Obesity in pets is becoming more and more common in the United States. Similar to humans that are obese, it can cause problems for their health as they age and make them more susceptible to chronic issues.
- 54% of dogs were overweight or obese in 2016.
- 59% of cats were overweight or obese in 2016.
- 66% of pets in the United States are overweight or obese in 2016.
11 additional facts about pet obesity:
Just as in humans, there are many health risks associated with obesity, some of which can be life threatening if not treated appropriately. A few important health risks are reduced life expectancy, diminished quality of life, skin disorders, chronic inflammation, kidney dysfunction, arthritis and tendon or ligament damage, respiratory disorders, cancer, metabolic and endocrine disorders. Getting your veterinarian involved early in the process of treating obesity can help with early detection of these diseases which increase your pets chance of survival.
Is human food bad for my pet?
Some human foods can be very harmful to your pets. A few dangerous foods that are commonly found in households are: chocolate, candy, natural bones, garlic, onions, sugar-free candy, grapes, raisins, fruit with pits, and macadamia nuts… This is not a complete list so if you are unsure call your veterinarian or a pet toxin hotline to be certain. In addition, many human foods have a high fat content, so even though they are not directly toxic, they contribute to weight gain and are not considered balanced diets for long term feeding. To ensure a nutritionally balanced diet it’s always a good idea to feed dogs dog food and cats cat food. If you have a specific treat in mind ask your veterinarian if it is safe.
How do I get my pet to lose weight?
- See a veterinarian to get a complete physical exam and thorough diet history to see how many calories your pet is receiving. With this information your veterinarian can rule out any underlying metabolic disease and we can tailor a specific weight loss plan for your pet including the type and amount of food and treats they should be receiving and exercise if possible.
- Routine rechecks are very important to track progress and help with any obstacles that might arise with your pet’s new nutrition plan.
Does my Veterinarian really need to be involved?
In most cases, yes. We want to make sure that your pet is receiving the appropriate amount of protein to take fat off of the fat stores and not the muscle stores. In order to do this your veterinarian will put together a plan to follow that would be best for your particular pet. Simply decreasing the amount of food could be detrimental to your pet’s overall health potentially causing malnutrition.
When meeting with your veterinarian they will discuss your pets body condition score- which is similar to the human BMI index, how much weight should be lost, and in what amount of time you should try to do that in a healthy manner.
What’s the best diet for my pet?
If your pet is overweight it depends greatly on your pet’s individual nutritional needs. They need to get a complete and balanced diet while factoring in the desired weight loss. Each pet’s nutritional needs are also different, just like humans all have different nutritional needs. Your pet’s nutritional needs are based on pre-existing medical conditions and individual variations in metabolism. As a pet goes through the stages of life their nutritional needs change.
So, with all the factors and choices, how can you decide? Make sure your pet has an age appropriate diet and that you are feeding the correct amount. Check with your veterinarian at your annual visit to make sure they agree how much your pet should be getting with each feeding. Different brands of dog food all have a different amount of calories per cup, so they must be evaluated individually.
Pet obesity prevention
When you take your new pet to the veterinarian for the initial visit be sure to ask your veterinarian what the appropriate food and amount for your individual pet would be. It’s helpful to always use a measuring cup instead of containers or mugs to measure out your pet’s food to help you be more accurate with how much you’re actually feeding. Also keep in mind that, when your pet is spayed or neutered their metabolic rate will drop 25% percent, therefore their caloric intake should typically be decreased by 25%.
Annual exams with your veterinary can help you stay on any top of any issues that may arise as far as obesity is concerned. It is easier to prevent obesity than it is treat it.
Is my pet overweight?
Unsure if you pet is over weight? Use this pet weight translator to get a clearer picture:
1 & 2- Association for Pet Obesity Prevention
Joan Smith CVT