A pet’s weight can be a sensitive topic. The love we feel for our companions runs deep, and we do not want to accept that they are suffering. Realizing that we have likely caused, or at least contributed to, their condition can be hard to accept. Perhaps you recognize your pet’s struggle and feel defeated and frustrated, or you believe that your pet is simply a little fat, rather than obese.
Pet obesity is increasing worldwide. In the most recent data from 2018, 56% of dogs and 59% of cats were obese, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. This equates to 56 million cats and 50 million dogs who are needlessly suffering from excess body weight. Highlands Veterinary Hospital knows you love your pet, and wants to ensure that your pet is not numbered among our country’s obese pets.
A weighty matter for pets
Making light of their condition by describing your obese pet as fluffy or curvy may help you turn a blind eye, but in reality, the excess fat tissue primes their body for disease. The presence of fat triggers inflammatory responses in the body, and prolonged inflammation tips their health toward chronic conditions. Excess body weight has been shown to contribute to:
- Shortened life span—21% of dogs are overweight by 6 months of age
- Types of cancer
- Metabolic disorders, including diabetes
- Increased burden on heart, lungs and kidneys
- Reduced quality of life
Recognizing obesity in pets
Identifying a condition can be difficult without knowing what you are looking for. While obesity is usually obvious, understanding exactly what to look for can make the difference between a minor lifestyle adjustment and a major medical intervention. Take the following steps to help determine the seriousness of your pet’s weight gain:
- Look carefully — Observe your pet from above and from the side. They should have a visible tuck right past the ribs. If your pet has a heavy coat, you will need to feel their outline with your hands.
- Get hands-on — The ribs should be easily palpable and have minimal coverage. Hold out your hand with your fingers straight and feel your knuckles. This is how your pet’s ribs should feel. If the ribs feel more like the palm-side of your knuckles, your pet is too heavy.
- Score their body condition — Review a Body Condition Score Chart, and see where your pet stacks up. At Highlands Veterinary Hospital, a body score is recorded at each pet’s exam.
- Keep records — Weigh your pet monthly, and keep records.
- Take photos — A great way to track your pet’s overall condition is to take photos each month of your pet standing, at pet’s eye level in profile, and from above.
Take action to help your pet lose weight
Weight loss is more than reducing calories. In fact, changing your pet’s diet without veterinary guidance can cause harm. Start off safely by scheduling a complete physical exam with our Highlands Veterinary Hospital team. We may recommend lab work to rule out several metabolic diseases that can masquerade as weight gain. Once we have determined your pet’s state of health we will customize a plan for them. Our nutritional counseling includes science-based, customized nutritional guidance, including what to feed your pet, and the exact amount. You will be confident that you are feeding your pet correctly.
Weight loss programs for your pet may sound difficult, but be encouraged that it is possible. It may help to realize that veterinary costs are much higher for problems in overweight pets.
Weight maintenance and weight gain prevention for pets
Your focus for your healthy weight pet is to stay proactive and vigilant. Always ensure that your pet’s caloric intake is justified by their daily exercise. Every pet is different, and so are their nutritional needs. Call us for diet recommendations based on your pet’s life stage and activity level.
Physical activity is vital for every pet’s physical and mental health. Thirty minutes of aerobic activity daily is recommended for dogs, and five minutes of play three times per day for cats. For reluctant exercisers, try the following:
- Sit and stand — Have your dog sit and then stand 5 to 10 times before their meal. Reward each movement with one piece of food, and the bowl as a jackpot at the end.
- Chase — Scatter some of your pet’s food in one room, and then leave. Call them from another room. Repeat.
- Puzzle — Select toys that require your pet to push or paw to access dry food inside. Puzzle balls also encourage chasing.
- Cat enticements — Laser pointers, battery operated toys, and reach boxes can be popular for cats. If your cat does not like to play, you may find this guide to playing with your cat helpful. For some fresh ideas on cat toys, the ASPCA provides some fun, and free, DIY Cat Enrichment resources.
Weight loss for any species can be frustrating. At Highlands Veterinary Hospital, we are here for you and your pet. We want to help you return your pet to good health and vigor, and watch your bond grow stronger in the process. We welcome you to contact us anytime. Whether you need a food or diet recommendation, or a complete weight loss plan for your pet, let’s get started.