Who can resist that cute face? You come home from work and your happy pup or kitty jumps off the sofa and runs over to see you. You immediately go to the cookie canister and get your friend a treat! Here is how that contributes to obesity.
Obesity in Pets
Obesity is simply excess fat and is a growing health problem with pets. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention states that 56% of dogs and 60% of cats were considered obese based on a 2017 US-based study. Body condition scores such as this one from the American Animal Hospital Association can help you determine if your dog weighs the right amount. On this chart, a 3/5 would be optimal. You can also look up your dog’s breed and ideal weight to see what is considered desirable for that breed. This body condition score for cats will help you determine if your cat is overweight. Since the majority of pet cats are not purebreds it is harder to compare them to a specific breed standard. Most breeds have a trim, firm look when they are at their optimum weight. A very obese dog or cat may exhibit that pot-bellied pig look with a swaying belly and fat around the neck. A check-up with your vet is recommended. Many vets are now using the Healthy Weight Protocol, which allows them to input measurements into a computer program. The software program then analyzes the data and makes suggestions regarding a healthy weight. In addition, obesity can be a sign of hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease so regular checkups are a good thing.
What Causes Obesity in Dogs and Cats?
Often the answer is pet owners. We don’t mean to harm our pets. After all, they are beloved members of our family. But if you are sharing your hot dogs and butter cookies with your pet, you may inadvertently be contributing to the problem. Just like humans, dogs and cats benefit from a healthy diet – one that meets their nutritional needs without a lot of fillers and extra calories. Start by reading the ingredients labels for your pets food and treats. Choose pet foods with healthy, natural ingredients. If you cannot read the ingredient, then it is probably not healthy or natural. Try using some fresh or frozen vegetables, or small pieces of cooked meat for healthy snacks. Dogs enjoy baby carrots and frozen broccoli chunks. Apple slices can be given sparingly. Cats enjoy a tidbit of lean, low sodium deli meat, or small pieces of low-fat cheese. Interested in more information about pets & health? Check out our article about parasites, and how to best protect your pets.
Consequences of Obesity in Dogs and Cats
Obese pets are at a higher risk for heart disease, diabetes, kidney dysfunction, and several types of cancer. Being overweight also affects your pet’s joints and can lead to osteoarthritis. Plus, your furry friend is not experiencing a high quality of life if they cannot run around and play with their friends. (And by friends, we mean human and animal!)
The Good News – Obesity is Preventable and Fixable
Developing a healthier diet and reducing empty calories is just one thing you can do. Fitness is important for good health. Gradually increase your pet’s daily exercise. Dogs enjoy taking daily walks, going to the park, and having a play date with other dogs. Make exercise a family affair. Your dog will enjoy going with you on outings to the playground or the park. We don’t normally think of cats as enjoying walks. But some cats adapt readily to being walked on a leash. Cats also enjoy interactive toys. Some good toys for cats include tying a feather to the end of a stick or string and having them chase it, laser toys, or crumpling a piece of paper into a ball for your cat to bat around.
My Peterinarian is not just about pet sitting when you are out of town. We understand that sometimes you have to put in long days at the office. We have loving dog walkers and cheerful cat entertainers that can go to your home and take wonderful care of your four-legged family member to make sure they get their daily exercise. Contact us today!