Over 50% of dogs and cats in the United States are overweight or obese as reported by a recent study from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. To break it down, a pet is considered to be overweight if it is 10%-20% above its ideal weight and is considered obese if it is greater than 20% above ideal. Consider a small dog or cat that should weigh 10 lbs. It is obese if it weighs 12 lbs– only TWO pounds above its ideal weight! What about the dog that should weigh 30 pounds but weighs 36 pounds? Yep, obese. As you can see it doesn’t take a lot of excess body fat for a pet to be considered obese, especially in smaller animals.
So why is this important? Overweight dogs and cats have a higher incidence of heart and lung problems, diabetes and arthritis. They’re at an increased risk for complications should they need to be anesthetized for surgery. Overweight pets can have problems with their skin, high blood pressure and at higher risks for many types of cancers as well. Sound vaguely similar to the risks associated with obesity in people? These associated diseases will shorten your pet’s expected lifespan, impact their quality of life, and they tend to be some of the more costly type of diseases to manage medically.
If you’re not sure if your pet is overweight, try feeling their ribs. Put your hands on the rib cage with your thumbs over the spine. If you can feel a layer of fat between the skin and ribs, or if the ribs are difficult to feel, your pet is overweight. If you cannot feel the ribs at all, your pet is obese. In cats, a large abdomen that hangs down and swings when the cat walks indicates obesity.
Set all excuses aside … excessive weight in an otherwise healthy pet is a direct result of consuming unnecessary amounts of food. It’s tempting to reward our pets with “cookies” or snacks just because we love to spoil them. Let us set the record straight–
healthy dogs and cats do not need to eat EVERY meal with gusto, and they don’t need a lot of rewards. If you provide a good quality food in the appropriate amount and a liberal amount of water, your pet will eat when it wants. If you feel you must offer treats, make it a healthy one— carrots, green beans, even okra! Foods high in fiber are filling without adding a lot of calories.
The other part of the equation in conjunction with reducing calories is increasing energy expenditure. Throw the ball, take your dog for a walk, entertain you cat with a laser pointer—anything to get your pet moving! You can even toss their kibble pieces at meal time to get them wandering around the house. Regardless of the means, the important part is the end—a healthy and fit pet who will live a happy life!
For a complete weight loss plan for your pet, go to http://www.petobesityprevention.com
Tonya Sparks, DVM