As bathing suit season approaches and we all try to shed our last few holiday pounds don’t forget your 4-legged family members. According to the AVMA, 58.3 % of cats and 52.5 % of dogs are overweight or obese. Pets that are 20% over their ideal weight are considered overweight and 40% over their ideal weight are considered obese. To put this into perspective a 16 lb pet that gains 3.2 lbs would be considered overweight and 6.4 lbs is considered obese. A small amount of weight to us can mean big changes for our pets.
How To Assess Your Pet’s Weight
So how do we tell if your pet is not at their ideal weight? There are three things we look for:
- Can you feel the ribs on light palpation? We don’t want to be able to see the ribs but you should be able to feel them when petting lightly.
- Do they have a defined waist? When looking at them from the side their abdomen should tuck up and when looking from above it should come in slightly after the ribs.
- Can we see and feel the belly without significant fat? When a veterinarian palpates the abdomen they should be able to easily palpate the main organs, this is not possible with large amounts of intraabdominal fat.
And of course, you can ask your veterinarian to assess your pets’ weight and let you know what their ideal weight should be.
How Does Extra Weight Affect Your Pet’s Health?
One thing to consider when we think about our obese pets is that their weight can significantly contribute to their overall health.
- Arthritis: An overweight pet is more likely to suffer from arthritis as they age than one at their ideal weight. The added stress on the joints can lead to early arthritis and joint disease.
- Heart Disease: Our overweight pets are more prone to congestive heart disease and hypertension (elevated blood pressure) due to the added strain on the heart.
- Difficulty Breathing: The lungs of an overweight pet have to work harder than those of a pet at ideal weight. Abdominal fat can push on the diaphragm causing increased effort to breathe.
- Diabetes: This is mainly a problem in cats. Feline diabetes mellitus has been linked to weight and can be detrimental to their kidneys and overall lifespan.
- Anesthetic Risk: Our overweight pets are at an increased anesthetic risk should they ever need a dental cleaning or surgery.
With varying differences in breeds and species, it should not come as a surprise that there is no cookie cutter technique to weight loss. But there are numerous options we can use to help your pet lose weight.
- Assess Your Pet’s Weight: First, make an honest assessment of your pet’s weight. Your veterinarian can help determine what your pet’s weight should be. As the saying goes acceptance is the first step to change. Make sure this is a family commitment. If everyone is not on board it is going to be very difficult to lose weight.
- Exercise Them Regularly: Bring your pet to the dog park, throw the ball for them to retrieve, or just go for a walk around the block. Anything you can do to keep them moving will help.
- Regulate Their Diet: There are 2 parts to this one. The type of food and the volume fed. Using a weight loss or reduced calorie food is important, but probably even more important for most of our pets’ is how much is fed. Most pet owners feed more that is needed for that pets’ life stage. Most foods will have a feeding guide on the side of the bag and the key is to feed for their ideal weight not their current weight.
- Know What Treats Are Best: Not only how many but the type. Many treats are laden with fat and calories. Switching to baby carrots or snap peas which have flavor and crunch is a big help. Remember your pet is just looking for a reward from you no matter how small.
Don’t forget this is about our pets and their health it is not a judgment upon you as the owner. We are here to help in any way we can and often are dealing with the same struggle with our own pets at home.