Obesity in Cats and Dogs

Obesity is the most common nutritional disorder in cats and dogs. It is the accumulation of excessive amounts of adipose tissue in the body. Many studies have shown that obesity can have damaging effects on the health and longevity of cats and dogs.

There a few reasons why our companions are overweight; it is up to us to be able to identify when it becomes a problem. Food is probably the most obvious reason. We like to give our pets treats for coming inside, before bed, while they are in their crate, etc. However, we tend to forget our ‘treats’ are extra calories and empty calories with no nutritional value in them. Many treats also have more calories in them then what your pet needs in total for one day. In this case, these additional calories are where the accumulation starts. Treats are an important part of training, but treats need to be limited and carefully picked for each pet. For my pets whose breeds are prone to becoming obese, I carefully choose their food and treats by choosing lower calorie treats and also treats that beneficial to them. By beneficial I mean helping combat problems such as dental and joint problems. I also know a lot of people feel the need to give their dogs human food; this is ‘okay’ in moderation. If you would like to give your dog human food, stick to acceptable fruits and vegetables which are much lower in calories.

Another reason is when your pet is spayed or neutered, their metabolism changes due to the lack of estrogen and testosterone. We always recommend you switch their food to a weight management diet after surgery. Very few spayed/neutered pets can tolerate high-calorie foods. After switching foods, we recommend you monitor their weight in case you need to increase or decrease the amounts or switch to a lower calorie food.

Lack of exercise could also contribute to weight gain, and I do hear this quite a bit. I usually hear this a lot right around this time when people blame it on ‘winter.’ I do agree winter can sometimes interfere with our outdoor activities especially when it is icy or minus 40 outside. It is a pretty good excuse. However, there are plenty of indoor games you can play with your dog. For cats, there are plenty of games we can do with them too, to get them moving.

Unfortunately, there are consequences when we overfeed our pets. The added weight on their joints is hard on them. They can suffer from arthritis earlier than normal; in a sense, they are ageing faster. Also, some cancers are more prevalent in obese pets. Some things we may not consider are our pets being clinically depressed because they are overweight and are unable to do some of their natural behaviours such as cats grooming themselves or dogs exercising and running around. These activities take a lot more effort when they are carrying extra weight. A couple of diseases we also want to try and avoid are diabetes and hypothyroidism. If you are concerned about your pets’ weight, we are always here to help guide you and educate you. A good thing to remember is that if you can see your pets’ ribs or spine, they are too lean, and if you can’t palpate their ribs or spine with a slight fat cover, then they are overweight.

Written by: Amanda Gorrell, VA