It’s no secret that many of America’s pets are overweight or obese, but pet owners have a tendency to turn a blind eye to their furry pal’s expanding girth. While we don’t deny the appeal of squishing an overweight pug’s chubby cheeks, we know those extra pounds worsen breathing issues, create extra stress on their heart and joints, and cause a host of other health issues. Despite this knowledge, it’s tough for pet owners to commit to keeping their pets at a healthy weight, which the numbers show. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention’s 2018 survey, 59.5% of cats and 55.8% of dogs classified as overweight or obese. When the next survey results are released, we’d like to see lower numbers—and a lower number on the scale when we weigh your pet. Let’s check out the health effects obesity has on your pet, and how you can help manage their weight to ensure many more happy years together.

What are obesity’s health effects on my pet?

Obesity in pets can lead to a large number of medical issues, and shorten your four-legged friend’s life overall. Some of the most common conditions that can be attributed to excess weight include:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Urinary tract disease
  • Liver disease
  • Cranial cruciate ligament tears
  • Diabetes
  • Intervertebral disc disease
  • Lipomas
  • Kidney disease
  • Skin infections
  • Heart disease

As your pet slowly gains weight, those extra pounds become more and more difficult to shed, which creates a vicious cycle of inactivity and weight gain. Prevent obesity in your furry pal from the moment you bring them home.

How much should I feed my pet?

We know it’s tough to ignore your pooch’s begging gaze as you devour a meal, or the insistent meowing of your cat in the middle of the night as they cry for more food—but stay strong. Determine how many calories your pet needs each day to maintain a healthy body weight, and stick to that number. The first step in calculating your pet’s caloric needs is deciding if they need to lose weight, maintain their weight, or gain weight, which can be accomplished by evaluating their body condition score. If you don’t know where your pet falls on the chart, ask your primary care veterinarian for help. 

Once you know your pet’s weight goal, you can calculate their needed calories with a calculator for cats or dogs. Then, learn how many calories are in a portion of your pet’s food to determine how many cups, cans, or ounces they can have each day. Divide the total into meals, which will help your pet feel full throughout the day, rather than giving them one large meal. As your pet’s activity level changes with the seasons—most pets and people are less active in the winter—adjust their caloric intake to maintain a healthy weight.  

What can I give my pet besides treats to show love?

Since treats should comprise only 10% of your pet’s daily caloric intake, you may wonder how else you can spoil your furry pal. While treats are an easy reward, most pets are also delighted with extra attention, playtime, or grooming, or healthier treat options, like fresh veggies. To help your pet burn the calories they take in from eating, encourage them to work for their food with training sessions or food puzzles. 

Why is my pet still not losing weight with diet and exercise?

Despite your best efforts, you may not see a noticeable change in your pet’s weight. In some cases, pets have a metabolic or other health condition that interferes with their metabolism and causes weight gain. If your pet is struggling to lose weight, schedule a thorough work-up with your primary care veterinarian for potential health issues, such as hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease. They can also guide you on choosing a prescription weight-loss diet, provide weekly or monthly weigh-ins, and offer additional tips to help your pet shed those extra pounds.

We hope we never see your pet in our emergency hospital because of a weight-related illness, but we’re always here for you and your furry pal on nights, weekends, and holidays, when your family veterinarian is closed. And, if your pet has a medical reason, such as a heart condition, that precludes them from maintaining a healthy weight, our AIMSS specialty team can work with your primary care veterinarian to help your four-legged friend be in the best health possible. Contact our hospital to see how we can help care for your pet.