The Problems Associated with Pet Obesity
More often than not, veterinary trends follow closely behind the trends of human medicine. Just as human obesity has become an epidemic in our country, the prevalence of obesity in pets is also on the rise. According to a 2016 survey, 54% of dogs and 59% of cats are either overweight or obese. Unfortunately, being overweight and especially obese can cause many adverse effects on your pet's health. Not only does it shorten their life expectancy, but it can also play a major role in your pet's quality of life. Some of these adverse effects which affect a pet's quality of life are an increased risk for respiratory disorders, orthopedic diseases, skin disorders, diabetes, and even an increased risk for certain cancers. Most pet owners agree they want their pets to live the longest life they can, but in order for pets to live long, healthy lives, it is up to their owners to be conscious of their pet's weight.
Is my Pet Obese?
Here at Evans Animal Hospital, we use a 5 point body condition score chart to determine if your pet is the appropriate weight according to his or her species, breed, and body type.
What Can I do for my Obese Pet?
If you think your pet may have a weight issue, we highly recommend a visit to your veterinarian. Your veterinarian can help you determine whether there may be an underlying medical condition that is contributing to your pet's weight problems, such as hypothyroidism, or low levels of the thyroid hormone. Hypothyroidism is easily diagnosed with a blood test and can be treated and managed with medication.
If it is determined there is no medical explanation for your pet's weight issues, your veterinarian can provide nutritional counseling and in some cases recommend prescription pet food to help your pet shed any unwanted pounds. One of the main reasons we see pet obesity is pet owners who feed their pets table scraps or an abundance of treats. We always recommend low calorie dog treats, given in moderation. Raw baby carrots, in moderation, are also an acceptable treat to help keep pets happy and healthy.
Keep Your Pets Active
Exercise is just as important as diet when it comes to your pet's weight loss. While exercising your dog seems pretty easy, exercising your cat can be a bit trickier. You should always visit your veterinarian before initiating an exercise routine for your pet to ensure healthy heart and lung function. Once your vet clears your pet for exercise, start slowly and work up to at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. For dogs, physical activity could include walking, jogging, or playing fetch. Exercise for your cat could include activities such as chasing a laser, playing with a feather on a string, or allowing them to chase remote controlled mice. If started at a young age, some cats will walk with a leash and harness.
Preventing Pet Obesity
As with us humans, in most cases, it is much easier to prevent obesity than cure it. Also as with humans, the most important factors for fighting obesity are with diet and exercise. From an early age, you can choose to feed your pets high quality pet food appropriate for your pet's breed and size and resist the temptation of feeding your pet table scraps. Feeding low fat treats only in moderation will help reduce your pet's caloric intake and help keep off extra weight. Our regular annual wellness exam includes recording your pet's weight and noting any trends in your pet's medical history. Our veterinarian is a great resource for nutritional counseling and providing recommendations for your pet's weight loss and maintenance.