Obesity is perhaps the most complex, challenging, and, ultimately, one of the most important medical conditions in both human and veterinary medicine. Nearly 60% of cats and 54% of dogs equaling over 50 million cats and 42 million dogs are at risk for weight-related disorders (2015).
The real danger of obesity in pets and people isn’t the fat; it’s the inflammation the excess fat tissues cause.
The Consequences of Obesity
The consequences of excess (adipose tissue) in dogs and cats are:
- Reduced Life Expectancy and Diminished Quality of Life
- Chronic Inflammation
- Kidney Dysfunction
- Respiratory Disorders
- Skin Disorders
- Orthopedic Disease
- Metabolic and endocrine Disorders
Why Do Our Pets Become Obese?
Pets can become overweight for many reasons. Over feeding is of course an obvious cause but it is far from the only reason. It could also be inadequate exercise, boredom, underlying orthopedic disease and metabolic disease
Here are some of the other contributing factors:
- Breed – The specific breed of your cat or dog can mean that they are more prone to weight problems than others.
Typical dog breeds prone to weight trouble are Cocker Spaniels, Labrador Retrievers, Dachshunds, Golden Retrievers, Shetland Sheepdogs, Dalmatians, and mixed breeds.
For cats, the more common ones are Birman, Ragamuffin, Colorpoint Shorthair, Persian, Exotic Shorthair, Manx, Peke Face, British Shorthair, Domestic Shorthair, and Sphynx.
- Exercise – I already talked about exercise, however the amount your pet exercises is a significant factor and deserves another mention. Pets that do not get enough exercise will not burn off the calories they eat, leading to weight gain. This is a prevalent cause of obesity in older pets.
- Diet– The specific food that your pet eats can also affect whether they become overweight. Certain pet foods are very high in unhealthy fats and carbohydrates. Even if you are not overfeeding them, you will have trouble keeping the pounds off if they are eating low-quality food or the wrong things. At College Hills Vet Hospital we offer nutritional counseling because we understand pet owners can be overwhelmed by the available selection of pet foods, all of which claim to have specific benefits for pets. We can offer expert advice to help you negotiate the complicated array of choices.
How to Prevent Obesity and Keep Your Pet Healthy
Here are a few tips to help your pets live long and healthy lives, and keep their weight in check:
- Find out what your pet’s healthy weight is – the first step to handling any problem is to realize that there is a problem. When you know your pet’s ideal weight, you can know when it becomes a problem. Ask us if you are unsure what weight you should be shooting for.
- Monitor your pet’s weight – now that you know your pet’s ideal weight, you can monitor it and adjust things if they are gaining or losing too much.
- Establish an exercise regimen. A pet’s exercise requirement is based on an animal’s age, breed, size, and overall health.
A rough rule for dogs is that they should spend 30 minutes to two hours on an activity every day.
Many cats are kept inside for their safety. While cats sleep roughly 16 hours a day, they need exercise in their waking hours. If your cat is indoors-only, you can help them get exercise by providing cat trees or other ways to climb. Playing with your cat using interactive toys (such as feather toys) is excellent. These get cats using their hunting instincts. Cats should minimally have two play sessions of 10 to 15 minutes each per day.
- Wellness exams: Your pet can benefit greatly from regular wellness checkups. Whether your pet is a youngster, a “senior citizen,” or any age in between, wellness examinations provide an excellent opportunity for us to conduct a thorough physical examination and develop a health profile for your pet. This information will help us identify medical problems and any other issues affecting your pet’s health and quality of life, including weight problems.
Your veterinary professionals at College Hills Veterinary Hospital can help your beloved pet get on the healthy road to fitness. By getting your pet on this path you will be improving their quality of life, as well as strengthening the bond you already share.
Dr. Kim Stewart
College Hills Veterinary Hospital
College Station, Texas