Does your pet have trouble fitting through their pet door? They could be overweight, or worse—obese. While watching your pet wiggle their way through a small opening may be amusing, obesity is no laughing matter. A few extra pounds, or ounces for cats and small-breed dogs, can greatly affect your pet’s overall health. Our Towne Centre Animal Hospital team explains why pet obesity is so concerning, and provides tips to help maintain your pet at a healthy weight.

Pet obesity risk factors

Studies have demonstrated that pets who maintain a healthy weight live about 2.5 years longer than their overweight counterparts. Overweight pets are at increased risk for several serious health complications, including:

  • Respiratory compromise — Overweight pets have a fat layer along their chest wall and abdomen that can inhibit normal breathing, and they are also at higher risk for tracheal collapse and laryngeal paralysis.
  • Diabetes — Excess body fat can lead to insulin resistance, since overweight pets have fewer working insulin receptors.
  • High blood pressure — Studies have shown that weight gain in pets causes increased heart rate, blood pressure, and cardiac output.
  • Kidney disease — High blood pressure contributes to chronic kidney failure, because a large portion of the blood pumped by the heart goes to the kidneys.
  • Arthritis — When excess body weight overloads the joints, cartilage breaks down, causing pain and mobility issues.
  • Cancer — Obese pets are at increased risk for several cancer types.
  • Cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) injury — Excess body weight is a well-known risk factor for injuries to the CCL, a major supporting ligament in the pet’s knee.
  • Skin conditions — Overweight pets frequently have additional skin folds that can cause irritation and infection.

Pet weight assessment

Pets are considered overweight if they weigh 10% more than their ideal weight, and obese if their weight exceeds 20% of their ideal weight. But, pets come in many sizes, so how do you determine your pet’s ideal weight? Our veterinary professionals are your best resource for determining if your pet is at a healthy weight. We accurately weigh your pet and assess their body conditioning score (BCS) to determine their weight status. You can also use home-based methods to assess your pet, including:

  • Evaluating your pet’s abdomen — Overweight pets typically accumulate fat in their abdominal area, so their abdomen sags.
  • Palpating your pet’s ribs — Your pet’s ribs should be easily distinguishable when you palpate their chest.
  • Determining your pet’s shape — Pets should distinctly taper from their abdomen to their hips, resulting in an hourglass shape. Overweight pets tend to be more oval-shaped.
  • Observe your pet’s back — If your pet has a broad, flat back, they may be overweight.

Benefits for keeping your pet at a healthy weight

Many pet owners equate food with love and overfeed their pet, but the benefits of keeping your pet at a healthy weight far outweigh the temporary pleasure of a tasty treat. These benefits include:

  • Decreasing your pet’s risk for health issues — Maintaining your pet at a healthy weight decreases their risk for several serious health issues.
  • Improving your pet’s quality of life — Pets at a healthy weight are more likely to stay active, and tend to have fewer mobility complications.
  • Increasing your pet’s longevity — Healthy-weight pets tend to live longer than their overweight counterparts.
  • Lowering your veterinary bills — Treating obesity-related health issues is expensive, and keeping your pet at a healthy weight lowers your veterinary bills.

10 tips to prevent pet obesity

Preventing obesity is the best way to maintain your pet at a healthy weight. Tips include:

  1. Choose an appropriate diet for your pet — Read ingredients and research pet foods to find a high-quality pet food that best suits your pet. Our veterinary team can help you determine the best foods for your pet.
  2. Calculate your pet’s calorie requirements — Accurately calculate your pet’s daily calorie requirements to avoid overfeeding.
  3. Measure your pet’s food — Use a kitchen scale or a standard measuring cup to accurately measure your pet’s meal portion.
  4. Limit treats — Feed treats sparingly, and ensure you account for their calories in your pet’s daily calorie count.
  5. Don’t feed your pet people food — Avoid feeding your pet table scraps, which can lead to increased calorie consumption.
  6. Ensure everyone knows the rules — Ensure your family and friends know not to feed your pet from their plate.
  7. Slow down your pet’s food consumption — Use food puzzle toys and slow feeder mats to make your pet work for their meal and to slow down their food consumption.
  8. Monitor your pet’s weight — Weigh your pet and assess their BCS monthly to ensure they stay at a healthy weight.
  9. Ensure your pet receives appropriate exercise — Exercise your pet daily to keep them active. Exercise requirements for dogs vary by breed, but all dogs need at least two 30-minute walks each day. Cats also benefit from active play sessions, and can be enticed to play with laser pointers and wand style toys so they burn calories.
  10. Maintain a regular feeding routine — Feed your pet at the same time every day. This lets them know when to expect food, and will help prevent begging for food throughout the day.

Maintaining your pet at a healthy weight is the best way to improve their quality of life and increase their longevity. If you would like your pet’s weight assessed, contact our Towne Centre Animal Hospital team, so we can determine if they are at a healthy weight and, if necessary, formulate a safe weight-loss plan.