Happy New Year!
We hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season! Now that the kids are back to school and things are starting to wind down, we'd like to cover the topic of obesity in our pet…..our new years resolutions can be theirs too!
Obesity has become a significant problem in the Western world not only for humans but for cats and dogs as well. Given how cute our furry friends can be, it can often be extremely difficult to say no to giving them treats. While often we use it to reward them for their good behavior (and because they are so darn cute), in reality it often causes more harm than good. Obesity in pets is associated with joint and respiratory issues and a reduced life span (among other things).
How can I tell if my pet is overweight?
Most people associate being able to feel your animal’s ribs as them being too ‘skinny’. That is not the case. In a fit, healthy animal, you should be able to feel the ribs. Additionally, you should be able to see that your pet has a distinct ‘waist’ – meaning that the body narrows behind the rib cage and in front of the hips and from the side, your pet’s abdomen should appear to tuck up behind the rib cage.
Often during an exam, we will give your pet a body condition score to assess whether your pet is underweight, overweight or at a healthy weight for their body type.
What causes obesity? My pet doesn’t eat that much food!
A cup of food depends on the cup
When a food is measured out and guidelines are given on the bag, it’s important to use an actual measuring cup. Often, because of ease, we get into the habit of throwing in a mug, bowl or any other form of scoop we have. This can lead to inaccurate measurements and significant over feeding.
Guidelines are just that… guidelines
While it is important that pet food companies provide guidelines to follow (many of which are very accurate for the size and breed of your pet), every pet is different. If your pet is more active, it may be that they require more food. On the other side, if your pet spends most of its time indoors and does not lead as active of lifestyle, the number of calories your pet needs will be decreased.
Some dogs have a predisposition to being overweight. Labrador Retrievers, Dachunds, Golden Retrievers and Basset Hounds are among the breeds we commonly see being overweight.
If you have tried to get weight off your pet by diet and exercise but there does not seem to be a change in weight, there may be underlying issues to the weight gain. Hypothyroidism and hyperadrenocorticism (also known as Cushing’s disease) can often be a cause of weight gain (or inability for weight loss). It is therefore important, if you are having difficulties getting the weight off your pet, to consult with your veterinarian and consider screening for underlying diseases.
Stay tuned as next we will cover why obesity is bad and how we can conquer it!