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Is My Pet Overweight?

Is my pet dog or cat overweight?

According to a recent reports by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the answer is likely yes your pet is overweight or obese. A 2015 study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention found that 58 percent of cats and 54 percent of dogs were classified as either overweight or obese, this translates to about 68 million dogs and 73.6 million cats. These numbers show a slight increase in percentages when compared to a similar study done in 2012. Pet obesity is a growing problem in the US.

The next question is why is my pet overweight?

A good way to find out is to ask your vet. There are some diseases seen in pets that can make them gain weight. Hypothyroidism decreases metabolism and causes weight gain and hyperadrenocorticism or cushing's disease leads to an increase in the bodies natural steroids that causes weight gain.

Once medical reasons for weight gain have been ruled out or treated, that leaves the more common reasons of too many calories and/or not enough activity.

How do you do that?

  • Know how much food you actually feed your pet - clients come in all the time and say they feed one cup of food a day and when we give them an actual measuring cup they routinely comment - "that's so small." Pet food companies do a lot of research about the correct amount of calories to feed your pet - the guidelines on the bags or cans of food are usually a good indicator of how much your pet needs.

  • Watch the treats. Treats are an excellent motivator or reward for good behavior and our pets definitely deserve them, but they can be very high in calories. Give low calorie alternatives for treats. If you give a lot of treats throughout the day - subtract that calorie total from their actual meals.

  • Divide meals into smaller portions more often if possible.

  • When your pet is looking for attention or begging, try taking them out for a short walk or play with a toy/ball instead of giving them more food.

  • Ask us about weight control. We offer exercise programs with underwater or land treadmills, stretching and strengthening exercises that can help remove some extra pounds and keep your pet healthy and live a longer life.

Why is this a concern to you?

Numerous studies have shown that having a pet that is overweight can shorten their lifespan. Life expectancy is decreased up to two and one half years in overweight or obese pets. The average life expectancy of a cat is about 13-15 years. Dogs life expectancy varies greatly by breed and size with some giant breeds being as short at 7 years but average over all breeds is 10-12 years. This means having an overweight dog could decrease their lifespan by over 25%.

Obese and overweight pets are much more likely to develop diseases that affect both their quality of life and life expectancy. Diseases include a much higher incidence of osteoarthritis, diabetes, heart disease, respiratory diseases, high blood pressure, many different types of cancer and kidney disease. Weight loss in many cases can reduce the severity of these diseases and the stresses put on the body.

Osteoarthritis is one of the most common causes of pain in pets. Numerous orthopedic problems are more common in overweight pets. Cranial cruciate ligament injuries/rupture is one of the most common orthopedic injuries seen in dogs. Carrying extra weight increases the

chances of developing these injuries due to the increased stress placed on the joints and ligaments. Studies show that weight loss can greatly decrease the amount of pain due to arthritis.

We all love our pets and want to keep them happy. Feeding and treats are a large part of that, but ultimately we control what our pets eat and the activities that they do so it is up to us as responsible pet owners to prevent a growing problem in pets.

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