Obesity in Dogs and Cats
Why is Obesity a Problem
Overweight or obese dogs and cats is an increasing problem. What causes our pets to be overweight or obese? The simple answer is too much food and not enough exercise.
A recent study showed that overweight dogs have an increased risk of muscle and skeletal problems such as arthritis and torn ligaments, heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. The same study found that dogs maintained at a normal to thin body weight lived, on average, 2-3 years longer than dogs that were overweight or obese
What Diet Should You Feed
People ask us all the time what type of food should I feed my pet, and how much should I feed my pet? The answer is a not always easy to figure out. You should feed the food your pet does the best on and the amount that maintains a normal body weight. This means feeding a nutritionally complete, high quality food that your pet likes to eat without undue gastrointestinal upset, normal bowel habits and a good healthy coat. There are many good options and we can help you make these choices.
How Much Should You feed
Food being fed in excess includes not only too much of their regular diets, but also includes too many treats, rawhide bones, and table food. Even if you follow the recommended amount on the food bag, it is often too much! The amount to feed must be based on the type of food, the age of the pet, the level of activity, and the pet’s individual metabolism. Make sure you take all calories into account (including treats).
Since we like to see our pets eat, we tend to add yummy things to the food like table scraps, gravy and canned foods making it tasty so they do eat more than they need. The amount that maintains a normal body weight can be measured with a measuring cup so you know exactly how much you are feeding. Meal feeding is better than free feeding as you will know how much is being eaten and can control the amount that is being eaten. The amount must be adjusted to achieve the desired weight.
If you need help to determine if your pet needs to lose weight, or if you need help coming up with a weight loss plan, please contact your veterinarian.
Body condition scoring is a helpful way to see if your pet is considered too heavy. You can compare your pet to the descriptions and the pictures on the Body Condition Scoring scales. There are 5 point scales and 9 point scales.
How can we control our pets eating habits?
Find the correct portions of food to feed your pet. Please discuss this with your veterinarian next time you come in to visit. And remember if you are going to reduce the amount of food to be fed do this slowly – we prefer the excess body weight to also come of over a period of time and not suddenly.
Limit snacks and try to not be persuaded by those big brown eyes – if you do feed snacks be sure that they are small and that they are healthy. Dogs often love green beans, apple slices and carrots. Any vegetable or fruit will do – just no grapes or raisins! Treats should be a small percentage of the total amount of calories fed in a day; 10% or less of the total amount fed.
Exercise is important! It is also enjoyable for you and your pet. We can even exercise our sedentary house cats with toys and food finding games in the home. Walking with your dog or playing in the yard can help burn calories.
Here is a short video from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) about obesity: