Obese Pets: Risks and Remedies

An overweight grey cat running in the grassMaybe the first time you noticed was when you attempted to take your dog on that 2 mile hike and she huffed and puffed the entire way. Or, maybe you were watching TV when you noticed that your robust kitty could no longer jump up on the couch next to you. Whenever the exact moment is that we become aware of our pets’ weight, it’s important to understand why fat pets aren’t funny, and what risks they face…

Pet Obesity: What is It & Why Should I Worry?

There is a lot of talk about pet obesity – especially since more than half of pets in the US are considered overweight or obese – but how do you determine if your pet is obese? The first step is to keep your pet’s regular physical exam appointments. Your veterinarian can best advise on whether or not your pet is overweight or obese, and suggest many options to bring your pet’s weight back into a healthy range.

Generally speaking, pet obesity can be can determined through these criteria:

  • Your pet’s ribs should be easily felt when you press your fingers along his or her side.
  • While viewing your pet from the side, you should see an arch or gradual slope rising upward from the chest cavity to the groin.
  • You can see your pet’s natural waist from above, looking down along the back to the tail.

Obese and overweight pets lack these characteristics and appear rounder or fuller in the waist.

While you may think your pet is adorable with that extra bulk, the risks to his or her health are numerous. Overweight and obese pets are more likely to develop diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, pancreatitis, osteoarthritis, age related nerve and bone degeneration, and many other diseases and conditions. In fact, obese pets often have shorter lives.

The positive news is that obesity is preventable and your pet – with a little help in the areas of nutrition and exercise – can lose those perilous pounds.

Healthy Strategies for Obese Pets

Helping your pet maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle requires your willingness to participate in his or her wellbeing. For example, If you have been indulging your pet in treats rather than your time, you may have to look for non-edible ways to praise your pet and interact with him or her (we recommend a brisk walk or game of fetch!).

Here are some other important facets of keeping your pet fit and energized:

  • Nutrition & lifestyle consultation – Make a wellness appointment for your pet and bring a list of your questions regarding diet, exercise needs, prevention, etc. This is your chance to get professional guidance in your pet’s weight management program.
  • Swap out treats for activities – When you’re about to say “good dog” or greet your pet at the end of the work day, avoid the treat temptation and grab the leash or catnip filled toy instead.
  • Count the calories, portion the meals – Follow those portion and caloric guidelines. But, sometimes pet food dietary guidelines are amorphous and aren’t always reflective of your pet’s requirements, which is why it is important to inquire about portion size and food choices during your pet’s exam.
  • Keep your pet active – All pets need exercise – even small mammals like hamsters. Keep your pet’s exercise a priority with 20-30 minutes of brisk movement a day, whether through walking, playtime, or interactive toys and games.

If you have determined your pet to be overweight or obese, he or she may be suffering needlessly. We recommend a nutritional consultation with your friends at Rocklin Ranch Veterinary Hospital.  We can provide you with the information and tools you need to get your pet’s weight under control and help achieve a healthier diet and lifestyle.