Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
Obesity in animals is linked to diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, and other problems. For National Pet Obesity Awareness Day (October 13 this year), here are some steps you can take to help overweight pets slim down.
Know Your Pet’s Ideal Weight
Excess weight is very common in dogs and cats. About 56% of dogs and 60% of cats in the United States are overweight or obese, according to a 2018 survey by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. Many owners of overweight pets don’t realize that their pet is too heavy or that the excess weight could cause health problems.
Ask your veterinarian to assess your pet’s weight. If your pet is overweight or obese, don’t be discouraged and don’t take it personally; your pet has plenty of company!
Check out these body condition charts to see if your pet might be overweight: https://petobesityprevention.org/pet-weight-check
Talk to Your Veterinarian
Before starting a weight-loss program for your pet, consult your veterinarian. A medical condition might be causing your pet’s weight gain, or your pet could have a disease like diabetes that needs to be addressed.
Work with your veterinarian to develop your pet’s weight-loss plan. Every animal and household situation is unique. Does a family member feed the pet table food? Does your pet eat freely from a bowl left out all day? Does another pet in the household need a special diet? Are you able to take your dog for walks? Your pet’s plan will depend on the answers to questions like these.
Reduce Calories Safely
Reducing a pet’s weight might be as simple as reducing the amount of food you put in the bowl. But animals need to eat enough protein and other nutrients to stay healthy. Overweight cats that don’t eat because they don’t like a new food are at risk of developing a serious liver disease called hepatic lipidosis.
A good way to start is by limiting treats and snacks. Treats should make up less than 10% of an animal’s diet, and it’s perfectly fine not to feed any treats at all. If you or a family member gives your pet treats, consider making these changes:
Ask your veterinarian how many calories per day your pet should eat to lose weight safely. Once you know this number, you and your veterinarian can calculate how much to feed your pet.
Your veterinarian might recommend changing diets. Some prescription diets are formulated to reduce calorie intake while keeping animals satisfied and feeling full. If you need to change your pet’s food, introduce the new food gradually over several days.
Increase Physical Activity
Exercise helps animals lose weight and maintain muscle. The type of exercise depends on your pet’s individual needs as well as your own preferences and available time. As always, consult your veterinarian before significantly changing your pet’s activity level, especially if your pet is elderly or has another condition like arthritis.
You don’t have to take your dog on 5-mile runs or convince your cat to walk with a harness. Here are some ideas from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention:
Monitor Your Pet’s Weight
Keep track of your pet’s progress. If your pet is losing weight too slowly or too rapidly, talk to your veterinarian about adjusting the plan.
1. 2018 Pet obesity survey results. Pet Obesity Prevention. March 12, 2019. Accessed October 7, 2021. https://petobesityprevention.org/2018
2. 2014 AAHA weight management guidelines for dogs and cats: initial assessment. American Animal Hospital Association. Accessed October 7, 2021. https://www.aaha.org/aaha-guidelines/weight-management-configuration/initial-assessment/
Photo by Joe Caione on Unsplash
Laurie Anne Walden, DVM
The contents of this blog are for information only and should not substitute for advice from a veterinarian who has examined the animal. All blog content is copyrighted by Mallard Creek Animal Hospital and may not be copied, reproduced, transmitted, or distributed without permission.