Obesity in pets is on the rise. In fact, the number of obese dogs and cats more than doubled between 2011 and 2020, equaling more than half the U.S. pet population. But the fact that obesity in pets is common does not make the problem any less serious. Pets who carry too much weight are at an increased risk for a multitude of health issues that can cause substantial, lifelong problems. To help your four-legged friend lower their risk of weight-related health conditions, learn how obesity develops and its prevention.
What causes obesity in pets?
Simply put, obesity occurs when pets consume more calories than they use. Feeding your pet too much and lack of activity is the leading cause of obesity. However, certain factors make a pet more likely to become overweight or obese, including:
- Age — Older pets are more likely to gain weight, largely because they become less active and sleep more. But, metabolic health conditions can also cause them to become too heavy.
- Spay or neutering — Spayed and neutered pets require fewer calories than intact pets, so after a pet undergoes this surgery, their food portions must be reduced.
- Underlying health conditions — Certain endocrine disorders are the main reason for unexplained obesity in pets who are kept on a strict diet and exercise regimen. Cushing’s disease and hypothyroidism are two potential diseases that can make weight management in pets difficult.
What health risks does obesity in pets cause?
While a few extra pounds may not seem like a big deal, overweight or obese pets are at increased risk of developing numerous serious health issues, such as:
- Osteoarthritis — Extra weight means extra stress on your pet’s joints, which increases normal wear and tear and can lead to painful osteoarthritis.
- Skin infections — Chubby pets can suffer from trapped moisture and dirt in their extra skin rolls, causing bacteria and yeast overgrowth on the skin.
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs) — Obese female pets can develop UTIs because of deeper skin folds and the inability to groom themselves. However, obese male cats are also more prone to urinary issues, including urethral obstruction, which can be life-threatening.
- Diabetes — Obesity can lead to insulin resistance and cause diabetes in cats.
- Heart disease — Excess weight increases your pet’s blood pressure and puts serious strain on their entire cardiovascular system.
- Cancer — Extra fat in your pet’s body prevents the secretion of adiponectin, which blocks cancer cell development.
How do I know if my pet is obese?
You need more than a quick glance to determine whether your pet is obese, since their fur can easily hide excess weight. Plus, the number on the scale is not the best indicator of your pet’s health. A breed standard’s weight, including purebred pets, can vary greatly, and a pet’s body condition must also be evaluated using a chart that depicts their body type to determine their weight status. If your pet is at an ideal weight, you should be able to feel their ribs, see a discernible waistline, and notice an abdominal tuck.
How can I prevent obesity in my pet?
By helping your pet maintain a healthy weight, you are also helping them live a healthier, longer life. Here are a few ways to prevent obesity in your furry pal:
- Visit your veterinarian — Your Island Animal Hospital veterinarian can evaluate your pet for any underlying health conditions that may make weight loss difficult, and create a safe diet and exercise plan.
- Get your pet moving — If your pet spends the majority of their day snoozing on the sofa, make a point to encourage daily exercise. Learn your pet’s favorite activity, whether a brisk game of fetch, a jaunt around the park, or an invigorating session of feather-wand pounce. The more fun your pet has, the more likely you will both stick to an exercise program.
- Reduce your pet’s caloric intake — If you calculate your pet’s daily calorie requirement that you portion out correctly, you likely will be surprised at how little they need. And, remember—treats should make up no more than 10% of your pet’s daily caloric intake.
- Feed your pet from a puzzle feeder — Does your pet practically inhale their food, and then beg for more? Use a puzzle feeder to give your pet’s stomach a chance to signal “I’m full” to their brain. Figuring out how to get their meal out of the puzzle will slow your pet down and entertain them at the same time.
Obesity can cause your pet serious health problems, but you can take steps to prevent their weight gain. If you are struggling to get your furry pal down to a healthy weight, contact our Island Animal Hospital team for help.