The biggest—no pun intended—health risk facing pets worldwide is obesity. Veterinarians estimate that 59% of all U.S. pets are obese. Overweight and obese pets have a high disease risk—especially for diabetes—and are more likely to experience chronic pain attributable to weight-related arthritis. By helping your pet maintain an appropriate weight, you help them live a long, healthy, pain-free life. Learn to keep your pet trim and healthy by following our Boca Midtowne Animal Hospital team’s guide to pet obesity and weight management.
Pet obesity risks
Pet obesity is more than a cosmetic issue. Excess fat tissue adversely affects respiratory, metabolic, and kidney functions. Overweight and obese pets have an increased risk of developing a variety of weight-related conditions, including:
- Chronic kidney disease
- Bladder and urinary tract diseases
- Liver disease
- Low thyroid hormone production
- Heart failure
- High blood pressure
Your pet is considered obese if they weigh 30% more than their ideal body weight, but your furry friend does not have to be clinically obese to experience serious health consequences brought on by weight gain. The impact of a pet gaining a few additional pounds is much greater than for people, and pets who are 10% to 20% overweight are also at risk.
Pet weight assessment
Many pet owners’ beliefs about their pets’ appearance are likely different from what veterinary medical professionals assert is a healthy body composition. Not surprisingly, pet owners often do not realize their furry pal is overweight, and they need an objective tool to help them determine whether their cat or dog is at an ideal weight. While pets’ body shape and fur and hair volume vary, pet owners can use the following observation and palpation tests to assess their pet’s body composition:
- Rib test — Gently run your hands along either side of your pet’s rib cage. You should easily be able to feel—but not see—each rib.
- Waist test — Crouch down and look at your pet from the side. You should be able to see their waist or a tucked-up area in front of their hind legs. If their abdomen or stomach is sagging, they are overweight.
- Standing test — Stand above your pet and look down. You should see an extended chest and tapered waist that creates an hourglass indentation in front of their hips.
If you are concerned about your pet’s weight, your veterinarian can assess your pet’s body and muscle condition, and rule out underlying medical conditions that could be causing weight gain.
Weight-loss strategies for pets
With your veterinarian, set your pet’s realistic weight-loss expectations. For dogs, the typical weight-loss rate is 1% to 2% of their body weight per week. For cats, 0.5% to 2% of their body weight per week is a reasonable weight-loss rate. Once you and your veterinarian establish a reasonable goal, you must monitor your pet’s progress by performing regular weigh-ins and body condition assessments to determine if your furry friend’s weight-loss plan is working or if the regimen should be adjusted. Regardless of your pet’s goal, weight loss requires making the following adjustments to your pet’s diet, activity, and lifestyle:
- Diet — Knowing exactly how much to feed your pet is essential for their weight loss. The feeding guidelines on most pet food packages are too broad to accommodate every pet’s needs, and your veterinarian can help you determine how many calories your furry pal can eat each day to ensure they lose weight safely. Use a measuring cup for accuracy when you portion the food amount your veterinarian has recommended for your pet.
- Exercise — Exercise is a crucial weight-loss component. Generally, dogs need at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day, and cats should have three intense five-minute play periods. For sedentary pets, introduce light exercise initially, and gradually increase the intensity level.
Pet weight management
Maintaining your pet’s healthy weight requires proper nutrition, consistent activity, and preventive care. Some important measures include:
- Regular veterinary visits —Schedule your pet’s regular wellness visits, so your veterinarian can monitor their weight, nutrition, and overall health.
- Portion control — Measure out your pet’s recommended food-serving size, and use pet calorie calculators to help estimate your furry pal’s energy requirements.
- Mindful treats — Avoid feeding your pet table scraps that are high in fat and calories, and ensure their treats do not make up more than 10% of their total daily recommended calories.
- Staying active — Whether you and your pet walk around the neighborhood, play catch, or chase battery-operated toys, continue to incorporate fun activities to maintain your furry friend’s interest in exercising.
By managing your pet’s weight, you can reduce their disease risk, improve their quality of life, and enjoy many years together. If you need help managing your pet’s weight, contact our Boca Midtowne Animal Hospital team for guidance.