Pet obesity is a growing problem. In the United States over half of all household dogs and cats are overweight or obese. That is a whopping 43.8 million dogs and 55 million cats! According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention pet owners who agreed to have their pets assessed for the study were first asked to classify their pets’ weight. Among all pets that veterinarians ultimately classified as obese, 93 percent of dog owners and 88 percent of cat owners initially thought their pet was in the normal weight range. This disparity is the cause of why America has so many overweight and obese pets.
What is Obesity?
Obesity itself is a disease where excess fat has accumulated in the body ultimately leading to many health conditions, some life threatening, and a decreased life expectancy. Obesity is mostly caused by an increased food intake, a decreased physical activity, and genetic susceptibility. Owners literally love their pets to death with food and not enough exercise.
There are 2 major medical conditions in dogs which can cause excessive weight gain. Those are hypothyroidism and hyperadrenocorticism or Cushing’s disease, along with some other metabolic disorders. These diseases in dogs should be eliminated as possible contributor to a dog’s weight issue prior to beginning a diet.
Why a Healthy Weight is important for your pet
As little as two pounds above a cat’s ideal weight, and five pounds above a dog’s ideal weight can put them at risk for developing some serious medical conditions.
Primary Risks of Excess Weight in Pets:
• Insulin resistance (Type 2 Diabetes)—an obese cat is estimated to be at least 3x more likely to develop this serious disease compared to a cat of normal weight (APOP, 2007)
• High blood pressure
• Heart and Respiratory disease
• Cranial Cruciate Ligament (“ACL”) injury
• Kidney disease
• Cancer especially intra-abdominal cancers
• Decreased life expectancy up to 2.5 years
Overweight or obese animals interact less with their families and are less energetic and playful. They come across as lazy because they lay around more therefore true lethargy or illness may be overlooked as the animal’s normal laziness.
How do I know if my pet is overweight or obese?
Talking with your veterinarian about a simple body condition scoring system can help you determine where your pet sits on the scale. Veterinarians can examine your pet and look for markers like the ribs and spine, fatty deposits on hips, chest, and/or base of tail, if a “waist” exists, a sagging abdomen, distention in the chest and/or abdomen, and body build. The scoring system is most commonly rated on a five-point scale or a nine-point scale with ideal being the middle range. Breeds, sex, age, type of lifestyle are minor factor taken into consideration as well.
Helpful websites for owners: