Obesity is defined as the accumulation of excessive amounts of adipose (fat) tissue in the body. It is one of the most common conditions that we see in pets. There are a number of things that can predispose a pet to being overweight or obese. These include genetics, being spayed or neutered, being on a diet that is too high in fat or calories and also living a non-active lifestyle.
So how can you determine if your pet is overweight? The first thing to do is look at the ribs. If you cannot feel the ribs when you slightly press over the side of your pet's chest, then your pet is most likely overweight. Pets that are overweight also can have extra fat accumulate around the tail and typically do not have a waist.
When examining your pet, Veterinarians can use one of two scales to determine the Body Condition Score of pets. The first scoring system is a scale of 1-5 with 3 being ideal weight and 5 being obese. The other scoring system is a scale of 1-9; when 4.5 is ideal weight and 9 is obese.
Why is it so bad for our pets to be overweight? They are predisposed to a variety of health conditions such as diabetes, osteoarthritis, heart disease and they can overall have a decreased life expectancy.
What can pet owners do if they feel that their pet is overweight?
First, talk with your veterinarian about your pet. It is important to have your pet examined to ensure that they are otherwise in good health. With your help, your veterinarian can help you develop a weight loss plan. This includes calculating the amount of calories your pet needs based on their ideal weight. It will also include a discussion about activities to do with your pet.
Sometimes a diet change may be beneficial. It is always a good idea to decrease the daily amount of treats and snack that may be 'human' food. Sometimes one treat can be the equivalent to humans eating a candy bar. Some owners may feed 4-5 treats per day (that would be 4-5 snicker bars in a day!)
Ways to increase activity include daily walks, daily trips to a dog park and playing fetch for our canine companions. For cats, we recommend moving that food dish around to different spots, using toys that encourage movement and provided cat trees or places to climb.
Veterinarians are there to help pets live as long as possible. They can help you determine the best plan for your pet. There are wonderful stories of pets losing weight and feeling like young puppies again just from the weight loss. Visit petobesityprevention.org for other ideas and resources.
Source: The Growing Problem of Obesity in Dogs and Cats1-3 Alexander J. German4