In the United States, over half of the pet population is overweight or obese. Just as in humans, this can lead to health issues such as joint disease, high blood pressure, organ disease, diabetes, and even certain types of cancer. Obesity in pets also negatively impacts quality of life and shortens lifespan.
The good news is that obesity can be managed, and pets can lose weight and become healthier once again. Keep reading for tips on how to tell if your pet is obese and what you can do about it.
Is Your Pet Overweight?
Because pets can accumulate extra weight gradually, you may not even notice that your pet is overweight. To know for sure, we use a tool called a Body Condition Score. This scale is used by veterinarians to standardize the level of a pet’s weight and to formulate a weight loss plan based on lifestyle, age, and breed. Learn more about your pet’s body condition score during their next pet wellness exam.
You can also evaluate your pet’s body using the following guidelines:
- Ribcage – Feel along your pet’s sides. You should be able to clearly feel their ribcage under the skin.
- Side view – A visual “tuck” along your pet’s abdomen is indicative of a healthy weight.
- Top view – From above, you should be able to see your pet’s waist tapering between their shoulder and hip. If the lines bulge outward, your pet is overweight.
The Perils of Pet Obesity
Obesity in pets can significantly increase the risk of several conditions, including:
- Joint pain and disease
- Insulin resistance
- Liver dysfunction
- Heart and lung disease
- Exercise intolerance
- Urinary problems
- High blood pressure
- Decreased life expectancy
Create a Plan
Like humans, the formula for weight loss is actually quite simple: reduce the number of calories consumed and increase exercise. Of course, this can be difficult to put into practice. That’s why creating a plan with your veterinarian is so important.
- Be realistic. Set realistic weight loss goals, and be honest about how much time you can dedicate to helping your pet lose weight. Discuss your pet’s general health, as well as any exercise limitations.
- Count calories. Your veterinarian may recommend a special weight loss diet or we may work to control calories in other ways. We’ll counsel you on pet nutrition to ensure your pet gets the right nutrients and monitor them along the way.
- Monitor portions. The only way to track how many calories your pet consumes each day is to measure their food during each feeding.
- Cut back on treats. Calories from treats can add up quickly. Consider other ways of showing your pet love, such as taking them on a walk or providing extra playtime or grooming.
- Exercise more. There’s no getting around it – exercise is essential for weight loss. Find out what your pet enjoys, and start slowly. Work gradually toward more rigorous exercise.
- Be prepared. Weight loss can be tough, so be mentally prepared for any setbacks. Your entire family should be on board with the plan.
- Make it fun! Celebrate small victories by taking your pet on a special outing or buying them a new toy. Take before and after pictures to stay motivated.
Preventing Obesity in Pets
Like all health issues, prevention is the best defense against obesity in pets. By following the guidelines outlined above, you can help prevent/manage the dangers of obesity. You’ll also be providing your pet with a better quality of life.