Obesity In Pets……..What Can We Do To Stop This Epidemic?

Just like us, our furry friends need to maintain a healthy diet and stay at their recommended weight to live their longest and healthiest lives. With over half of all the pets in the United States being overweight, it is more important than ever to make sure pet parents are informed about their dog’s weight, so they can take the appropriate steps to rectify any health issues that may be present. Obesity in pets is an increasing problem. Being a small animal veterinarian, I see so many pets that are overweight and I am always working with pet parents to create an ideal diet and exercise plan for their pets.

Related:Dr. Alison’s Top Tips On Helping Your Pet To Lose Weight

A dog’s weight can say a lot about their health.  Pet obesity is becoming an epidemic in our country and posing dangerous health concerns for our pets. Just like us, obesity can lead to many diseases and health concerns such as:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Osteoarthritis
  • High blood pressure
  • Skin disease
  • Thyroid
  • Seizures
  • Heart and respiratory disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Some cancers
  • Decreased life expectancy (up to 2.5 years)

So, how can we ensure our pets are fit and have them living longer and healthier lives?   First, it is important to know what your pet’s ideal body weight should be and when your pet may be overweight. Small animal veterinarians utilize a Body Condition Score (BCS) Chart to assess the proper weight and body condition of a pet.  BCS typically ranges from 1-9.  Using this scale, I give each pet a score ranging from 1 to 9, with 5 being the ideal body weight.  The score allows me to assess your pet’s weight and body condition to formulate a diet and exercise plan that best fits your pet. When giving a score to your pet, I evaluate your pet’s silhouette from above and from the side focusing on the ribs, spine, hip bones, waist, abdomen, muscle mass, and overall fat. Ideally (a score of 5 out of 9), you should be able to see your pet’s waistline from above.  From the side, your pet’s abdomen should appear tucked behind the ribs. You should be able to easily feel your pet’s ribs under a thin layer of fat.  Always have your veterinarian evaluate and give your pet a BCS evaluation. Your veterinarian is your best resource for creating a proper diet plan and exercise regimen for your pet.

Now that we all have a better understanding of how your pet should look, perhaps your pet may have to lose some pounds. I always recommend consulting your veterinarian regarding the best, most healthy plan for your pet. Here are some tips on helping your pet lose weight so they can achieve a score of 5 out of 9 on the BCS scale!

Help stop obesity in pets with these tips from the vet! 

  • First, have your pet evaluated by your veterinarian and routine bloodwork performed to rule out systemic disease. Many times, weight gain can be from systemic illnesses such as hypothyroid.
  • Come prepared to the vet hospital.  Make sure you know the exact food type, the way in which you feed your pet, and how many and what type of treats you pet receives through the day.  This information is helpful for the veterinarian to assess your pet’s diet.  Many times, veterinarians will have a form to fill out with your pets exact feeding schedule.  This is important in establishing how many calories your pet is eating and whether you need to cut back.
  • Measure Meals. Have your veterinarian establish the ideal body weight that your pet should be. Once the ideal body weight has been established, feed your pet the recommended amount according to their ideal body weight.  Some pets are obese and slowly transitioning them into a different feeding routine to establish a goal weight that may not be their end goal is appropriate.  Your veterinarian is the best resource to establish the goal weight for your pet at any given time.  It is important to be utilizing the correct measuring tools when feeding your pet.  Make sure your veterinarian knows exactly how you are measuring your pet’s food to ensure the correct amount.
  • Establish a Feeding Schedule. Many pets graze on food that is left for them all day. With overweight pets, I do not recommend this method of feeding. Measure out the exact amount of food they should be getting and give it to your pet at scheduled times throughout the day.
  • Cut down on treats. I know this is a tough one, but people do not realize how many calories treats can contribute to your pet’s diet. Just cutting out the treats alone, or switching to low fat treats, can result in weight loss for your pet.
  • Exercise! Exercise! Exercise! Just like us, pets need to exercise to lose weight.
  • Regular follow-ups are crucial in tracking your pets progress and results of their new diet.  Make sure to have your pet evaluated regularly with weight checks and examinations once the diet has been established.  This is crucial in assessing the effectiveness and adjusting the diet if needed.
  • Finally, if your pet is not responding to decreasing the treats, or the proper amount of food and exercise, please speak with your veterinarian regarding a low-fat diet. I recommend Wellness CORE Grain-Free Reduced Fat Turkey & Chicken Recipe Dry Dog Food.

Out pets depend on us to make the right choices for them and to keep them healthy and strong. Our pets give us so much love, devotion, and loyalty, so let’s give them the benefits of health, happiness, and a long wonderful life!


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