Overweight pets are no laughing matter. As veterinarians who care about the health and well being of pets in the St John’s area, we want to educate the public on the negative effects of pet obesity. Even a few extra pounds can place significant stress on a cat or dog’s frame.
Why Do Pets Pack on the Pounds?
For the most part, the cause of obesity in animals is the same as humans: they eat too much and exercise too little.
Food and love are closely interconnected. That’s the reason the term ‘comfort food’ exists and why warm, home-cooked meals make us feel so good. Sharing food is a loving gesture—both for people and for pets. But by overfeeding your pet, you might actually be shortening their life span.
Overfeeding includes giving your pets too many treats, free-feeding (unlimited access to food) or giving your pet table scraps, which are typically higher in calories and fat than pet food.
Other reasons your pet may be overweight or obese:
- Obesity is more common in older, less active animals.
- Diseases like hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease. We can help manage these diseases with the right treatment plan.
- In the case of cats, indoor kitties can sometimes become more sedentary, which can lead to weight gain. In conjunction with a proper diet, get your cat moving, chasing balls and playing with toys. Your cat will love it and you’ll likely have a fun time, too.
While we all want to pamper our pets, the most loving thing you can do for an overweight pet is to put them on a veterinary approved diet and give them plenty of fresh water and exercise.
The Dangers of Obesity
What’s at risk if you don’t address your pet’s weight problem? A lot of health problems—and the potential for considerable stress on you and them. It may even reduce your pet’s life expectancy.
The most common health problem veterinarians see in overweight or obese cats is diabetes or hypertension (high blood pressure). Obesity-related health problems can also include:
- Heart disease or heart failure
- Decreased stamina
- Difficulty breathing
- Osteoarthritis and joint injuries
- Increased risk for liver and kidney diseases
- Certain cancers
Reduced mobility is also a concern. Many overweight and obese pets have trouble jumping or using stairs. Overweight cats may have accidents if they are not able to easily fit into their litter box, and they can experience difficulty grooming. This can cause greasy or matted fur, and it’s also bad for the cat’s emotional health because self-grooming is a fundamental part of being feline.
How Can You Tell If Your Pet Is Overweight?
Many owners of overweight pets incorrectly identify their pets as falling within the normal weight range. When you see us for your pet’s annual examination, we’ll talk to you about your pet’s ideal weight. At home, you can still get a sense of whether or not your pet is on the heavy side.
While your pet is standing, place your hands on their midsection and see if you can feel their ribs and spine. You shouldn’t be able to see them, but you should be able to feel them. Ideally, there is a slight hourglass shape to the waist when looking at the animal from above.
To get a more accurate weight assessment, visit us for a proper examination. We assess a pet’s overall body health using a nine-point body condition score (BCS) system, which is similar to the body mass index (BMI) used for humans. An animal with a BCS at six is considered clinically overweight; anything more is considered obese. A desirable weight is usually in the four to five range.
What to Do If Your Pet Is Overweight?
If you find your pet looking a little chunky, call us for an appointment. We’re happy to recommend a safe and healthy weight loss program for your pet’s individual needs. We’ll help monitor their and make adjustments along the way so your pet can regain a healthy weight – an important step towards living a long, happy life.