Sometimes it’s difficult to look our precious pets in the eyes and deny them the extra treat they so desperately want, or a slice of turkey when your dog behaves so well as you make a sandwich. However, when we give in too much, it doesn’t take much time to notice that our dog or cat looks a little plump. October 13 is National Pet Obesity Awareness Day, when pet owners across the U.S. are reminded that being disciplined when spoiling our pets is in their best interest.
Whether you’re a pet owner who wants to avoid obesity in your furry family member or one who has noticed a few extra pounds need to be shed, there are easy ways to keep your pet healthy and living their best life for as long as possible.
Dangers of Obesity in Pets
Unfortunately, an estimated 56% of dogs and 60% of cats in the United States are overweight or obese due to overfeeding and lack of exercise. Yet, it remains an overlooked problem by many pet owners. Much like with humans, being overweight has been somewhat normalized in pets, with many owners under the false impression that their pet’s weight is within an acceptable range. Most are surprised to hear their dog or cat is overweight when they visit their veterinarian, and instead of preventing weight gain, they’re now in the more difficult position of needing to help them lose weight.
Obesity in pets – even being as little as 10 percent overweight – leads to many health complications that can decrease a pet’s lifespan by one-third.
Those extra pounds predispose your cat or dog to the following health issues:
- Heart disease
- Kidney issues
- Liver disease
- Joint problems/arthritis
- Skin and hair coat conditions
- Hormone imbalances
- Urinary problems
- Back and neck issues
In addition, overweight pets tend to have reduced energy levels and gain weight easier, even if given only a tiny amount of food. For owners of small breed dogs, monitoring weight is significant. In canines that fall into the “toy” category, a weight gain of just 3 pounds is equivalent to 30 pounds in a large breed.
Tips to Avoid Obesity in Pets
Easy, proven ways to ensure your pet doesn’t gain extra weight include moderating their food intake and establishing a regular exercise regimen follow.
The cause of extra pounds in dogs is the same as humans – having your dog or cat consume too many calories and not compensating for that with enough exercise. Cats or dogs that are given excessive treats, human food, or servings of their food that are too large will gain weight quickly, and a lack of activity will perpetuate the weight gain. If your dog or cat needs to shed pounds, reduce the number of treats and talk to your veterinarian about adjusting the quantity or type of food and perhaps even their number of daily feedings.
Increasing your pet’s activity level is a proven way to keep pounds off and lose them if they’re already overweight. Most dogs love going for a walk or run and enjoy outdoor activities such as swimming and hiking. Cats can get additional exercise with increased playtime and chasing laser pointers. Figure out which activity they seem to enjoy most – and what you enjoy doing with them – and make it part of your daily routine. If your pet is overweight or obese, start an exercise regimen slowly and increase the time and distance over time after they start losing weight and increase their stamina.
In honor of National Pet Obesity Awareness Day, take an honest look at your pet and seek the advice of your veterinarian if you suspect they might be overweight. The AVMA provides a handy reference chart for helping to determine if your dog or cat is an ideal weight or overweight. Recognizing the problem is the first step to helping your pet regain their health, live a higher quality of life, and avoid preventable illnesses. As veterinarians, we are passionate about this topic but also refrain from judgment, so if you’re seeking extra tips on getting your cat or dog to lose weight, please don’t hesitate to call us!