Obesity is a real health concern. It is everywhere – our friends, our family and even our four-legged family members. In Canada, 60% of our pets are obese or significantly overweight and this is likely a low estimate.
Just as we see with people, serious weight gain can lead to physical disease. Type II diabetes is seen frequently in overweight and obese cats. Mobility issues. cancer, premature death and cardiac disease are seen more often in cats and dogs that are overweight.
I respect we all have different body-types and a little extra here and there is perfectly normal AND healthy for some people and the same goes for our pets.
We need to evaluate each pet on an individual basis. I have many patients that are canine athletes. They
compete regularly in agility, flyball, skijoring, etc. These dogs NEED to be on the lower side of the body
condition scale or they will be more likely to become injured. They may weigh more than you expect on the scale because they have so much muscle (which weighs more) but they have very little fat! They get to eat more and often richer foods than my dog does (who, through no fault of his own, is a bit of a couch potato!!).
We also need to consider the physical health and current or predisposing conditions of your pet. For instance, if your dog or cat has osteoarthritis, an extra pound or even ounce can have a deleterious effect on their arthritis and mobility.
So why are our pets overweight? Too many calories and too little exercise – sound familiar?
Food: It really comes down to calories and the right kind of calories! Many of the high protein and rich diets that are the trend for dogs these days are simply too high in calories for our average not-so-active dog. If it’s a calorie rich food, you may have to feed less than a lower calorie food.
And consider satiety…. dogs and cats are AMAZING at letting us know they are hungry. One of my cats likes to sit on my head at 6am with a SUPER loud purrrrr and then the occasional gentle claw-in swat on my face….. Hello – WAKE UP, it’s breakfast time. And remember, those yummy Temptations and Milkbones are PACKED full of calories. There are a lot of low-calorie options for your pet if you feel the need to give a treat once in a while. Raw veggies like carrots are often a real hit with dogs!
Get active: Increasing their activity will kick-start their metabolism and use calories! If you could increase the activity your dog or cat is getting, then sure, go ahead and feed more calories. BUT if you can’t (which many of us cannot), then we need to consider reducing their caloric intake.
If your cat or dog is already overweight and you are struggling with his/her weight loss program, talk to your veterinarian. Veterinarians and the entire veterinary health team are well equipped to formulate individualized weight loss programs for your pet. It’s like Weight Watchers for your pet. Regular weigh-ins ensure the program is working and they are not losing too much too quickly (or too little). We want to keep you motivated! Gradual weight loss is sometimes difficult to see and an ounce on a cat is significant, but we need to see that on the scale…. you won’t be able to tell by simply looking at your cat. Call your veterinarian to find out more about these programs. Often they are available at little-to-no cost. We simply want to keep your pet healthy and happy.