Pet obesity has become a major problem in the United States and many other countries. Pets come in all shapes and sizes, but sometimes sizes get a little out of hand. October 12, 2022 is National Pet Obesity Day. About 60 percent of dogs and cats are considered overweight or obsese by their veterinarian. The problem with these overweight pets is, most owners do not see the problem and are unwilling to help with a solution.There are so many pets that are overweight, which is making it seem like the overweight pets are at a normal body condition. Owners who help their pet maintain a healthy body weight will see a longer life span and less health risks.
Diabetes is one of the worst health risks a pet has when they are overweight. Just like in humans, an overweight pet can become insulin resistant and therefore end up with diabetes. Having a diabetic pet is very stressful to the owner and requires a large amount of time, dedication and money to treat. The best way to protect your pet from diabetes is to keep him/her at a healthy body weight and get regular vet check ups. Arthritis is another major health concern. The extra weight can cause stress on the joints and spine causing pain and discomfort to the animal. The stress on the joints and spine will cause joint degeneration and mobility problems. Pets with arthritis are started on daily pain medications and anti-inflammatoires, but what most people don’t know is, weight loss can help decrease or even eliminate the need for the medications.
Anesthesia is often necessary in the veterinary field and is always a risk. However, patients who are at an unhealthy body weight have a higher risk with anesthetic. If a pet is overweight the drugs used for the anesthetic can be more difficult to calculate as the dosages need to be based on the lean body weight of the pet. Anesthesia also suppresses the respiratory system of the patient, which in an overweight dog is already suppressed without an anesthetic. Pets need yearly dental cleaning under anesthesia and emergency surgeries occur often as well, so it is important to save the risk and keep pets at a healthy body condition.
The big question is, “why is my pet overweight?” Many pets become overweight due to poor diet and lack of exercise. Another huge factor is the pet owner literally loving their pet to death. Most pet owners think their pets deserve treats every day and don’t need to go for walks if the pet would rather lie on the couch. This is a mistake the owners are making. Pets can certainly get treats when deserved, however the treats should be healthy such as:green beans, carrots, apples. Although these treats are safe to give, it is still important to give treats in moderation. Pets also need plenty of exercise. The exercise pets need is nice and steady. Running the yard for 5 minutes is much less effective than a steady 30 minute walk on a leash. Cats are difficult to exercise but can be exercised with a harness or toys such as chasing a laser light. Regular weigh-ins are also important so the weights can be tracked and recorded to ensure your pet is maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight if needed.
Diet is a major key factor in a pet's body condition. It all starts with a measuring cup and good quality dog food. Many pet owners do not like to spend any more money than they have to on pet food, but you get what you pay for. The 50 pound bag of Ol Roy that costs $20 is very unhealthy for pets and less effective than going for a better although more expensive brand. Most dog foods that are commercially available are formulated for feeding all life stages. This really means that these are puppy foods and are very calories dense. It is very important to feed the appropriate food for the life stage (puppy, active adult, senior) and lifestyle of your pet.
An actual measuring cup should be used when feeding your pet. It may be more convenient to use that old coffee can or mug, but for the health of your pet a measuring cup is better. Pets should be meal fed twice daily, if the pet does not finish the food within 10 minutes, take the food away and do not let him/her graze throughout the day. This will not only help keep your pet at a healthy weight, but will also help you know how much your pet is eating and possibly catch any illness sooner.
Pets that get daily exercise and are on a strict diet that are still overweight and not losing weight need to seek help from a veterinarian. A pet who can’t lose weight or keeps gaining weight may have an underlying condition or need help from a prescription weightloss diet. Some potential concerns for overweight pets who can’t lose weight are: genetics, hypothyroidism, and cushing's disease. As a pet owner it is important for you to have compliance with the directions given to you by your veterinarian to maintain a healthy body condition for your pet. If you feel like your pet might be overweight, please contact your veterinarian. The single most important thing that you can do to increase the lifespan and health of your pet is to maintain a healthy body weight.