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So My Pet is Fat – What’s Wrong With That?

Posted 01.16.19 by Kimberly Gaddis, DVM

One of the most common medical conditions we see in veterinary medicine is weight gain and obesity. And yes, this is a medical condition! Being overweight or obese can predispose our pets to endocrine, cardiopulmonary and musculoskeletal disease. Recent numbers show that around 35-40% of pets in the United States are overweight! This is a completely preventable and reversible disease, but some of the consequences that come with it are not. If your veterinarian suggests a weight loss plan for your fur-child, they aren’t being rude! They are trying to prolong the life of your beloved animal.

Why is it a big deal?

Many body systems are affected by weight gain. Being overweight can lead to hypertension and myocardial hypoxia, which affects how well the heart works. Breathing can also be affected due to decreased lung capacity, leading to exercise intolerance. In addition to heart and lung issues, obesity can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes. Although this can occasionally be reversible in cats, it is not a reversible disease in dogs. Diabetes is a disease that takes a lot of time, effort, and money to manage! Although arthritis is inevitable in most animals, its progression can be accelerated by obesity due to increased mechanical stress on the joints. Excess adipose tissue is potentially responsible for some inflammatory cytokines that have been found in joints of obese animals. In general, overweight pets have a shorter life-span.

Body Condition Score Chart Canine

Is my pet overweight?

When looking at a dog, they should have an easily distinguishable waist, palpable ribs with minimal fat covering, and the abdomen should be tucked up when you look at them from the side. For a cat, it is harder to tell! They should also have palpable ribs with slight fat covering, and a waist visible behind the ribs. Cats have an abdominal fat pad, but it should be pretty minimal if they are an ideal weight. If you are concerned about your pet’s weight, please consult with your veterinarian. Be prepared to discuss what and how much you’re feeding them (including table scraps!), and their daily activity.

How can I keep my pet from getting overweight?

First and foremost, always follow the advice of your veterinarian! We are constantly working with our clients and patients to determine a weight loss or maintenance plan that works for them. Overfeeding is the number one issue I see, so always use a measuring cup, not a scoop or plastic drink cup. You’d be surprised by how inaccurate your estimation may be when it comes to measuring out your animal’s food. Regular mealtimes instead of “free-feeding” usually will cut down on some of the overfeeding as well. Incorporating regular exercise is great for weight control and joint health. Even if it is just a short walk once a day – every bit helps! Lastly, stop with the table-scraps! We are all guilty of it, but cutting out table-scraps and excessive treats can make a huge difference. Some alternatives include raw and non-seasoned carrots and green beans.

Labrador with tongue out

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