Obesity is becoming an extremely important health issue in our pets. It is estimated that approximately 35% of household pets are obese in the United States. Obesity in pets leads to similar health problems as it does in people. Here is a partial list of diseases and conditions that we know are directly caused by or are aggravated by being overweight:
- Breathing problems – collapsing trachea, chronic bronchitis, feline asthma
- Joint trauma – stretched tendons, torn anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL), collapse of carpal bones.
- Fatty Liver Disease (hepatic lipidosis)
- Skin problems – Inability for the animal to groom properly, infected skin folds
- Heart disease
- Increased surgical or anesthetic risk.
- Reduced Life Span
Arthritis: The added pounds in an obese pet can stress the joints which lead to degeneration of the joints. A common misconception is comparing the pounds a pet needs to lose to our weight scale. For an example: A dachshund that weighs 25 pounds but should weigh 15 pounds has 40% of his body mass to lose. Most would think of it as just 10 pounds to lose and not realize that this pet needs to lose 40% of his body mass.
Diabetes: Extra body fat in cats leads to insulin resistance and ultimately type two diabetes as it does in people.
Reduced Life Span: A study in Labrador retrievers found that dogs kept at a normal weight lived an average of 2 ½ years longer than those that are obese.
Most every pet that we examine at our clinic is given a “Body Condition Score”. This is a number system of 1 to 9 that describes the pet’s weight. Purina designed this system so we can all easily judge if a patient is of an appropriate weight.
What can be done to keep your pet from becoming obese? Proper calorie intake and exercise. You should always feed a measured amount appropriate for your pet. (use a measuring cup, 1 cup doesn’t equal any cup) and monitor the caloric content of treats closely. For instance, most cats can be maintained at appropriate weight by feeding ¼ cup of food twice a day. Dogs obviously vary much more in size, so consult the feeding guide for your dog food as a starting point. Pets should also receive approximately 30 to 45 minutes of exercise daily.
If you are concerned that your pet may be obese, call to schedule an exam. There are health issues that lead to obesity, such as hypothyroidism, and these should be ruled out before placing your pet on a controlled diet.