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Trimming the Pounds: A Guide to Pet Obesity and Health

In recent years, alarming statistics have come to light: up to 63% of pet cats and 59.3% of pet dogs worldwide are grappling with overweight or obesity issues (Purina 2023). The Royal Veterinary College (RVC) reported in 2021 that 1 in 14 dogs were marked as overweight by their veterinarians annually (RVC 2021). These figures shed light on a concerning issue—our furry companions' weight woes. Read on to learn more about obesity in dogs and cats.

The Heavy Burden: How Obesity Affects Your Pet's Health

1. Arthritis: Obesity stands as a prominent cause of arthritis in both cats and dogs. The extra pounds exert added pressure on their joints, leading to discomfort, pain, and limited mobility. This can particularly affect cats, making grooming a painful ordeal.

A gray cat on a plain white background

2. Diabetes: Overweight pets face a heightened risk of developing diabetes. Maintaining a healthy weight can be the key to preventing this severe condition and the need for insulin injections.

3. Heart Disease: Obesity can strain the hearts of our pets, potentially resulting in conditions like hypertension and heart disease due to increased workload on their cardiovascular systems.

4. Breathing Difficulties: Overweight pets may struggle with proper breathing, especially during exercise or hot weather. This can lead to respiratory problems and discomfort.

The Benefits of a Healthy Weight for Your Pets

1. Improved Lifespan: One of the most significant advantages of maintaining a healthy weight for your pets is an extended lifespan. Overweight dogs and cats often have shorter life expectancies compared to those at a healthy weight.

overweight sausage dog stood on grass

2. Enhanced Mobility: Dogs and cats with a healthy weight are more agile and mobile.

They can revel in playtime and exercise without experiencing discomfort or fatigue.

3. Better Quality of Life: Healthy-weight pets generally enjoy an enhanced quality of life. They are less likely to grapple with various health issues, contributing to a happier and more active existence.

white cat stood with mouth slightly open

Risk Factors of Pet Obesity

1. Overfeeding: One of the primary culprits behind pet obesity is overfeeding. It's vital to adhere to feeding guidelines provided by your veterinarian or pet food manufacturer to prevent excessive calorie intake.

2. Lack of Exercise: Inadequate physical activity can contribute to weight gain in pets. Consistent exercise is essential to help your furry friends burn calories and stay in good shape.

3. Breed Predisposition: Certain dog and cat breeds are more susceptible to obesity than others. It's crucial to be aware of your pet's breed tendencies and tailor their diet and exercise regimen accordingly.

sad, overweight labrador

Is your furry friend carrying a few extra pounds?

Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for your pet's well-being. Here's a quick guide to help you determine if your cat or dog might be overweight:

1. Tactile Examination: Gently run your hands along your pet's ribcage. You should be able to feel the ribs without pressing too hard. If you can't feel them at all, it might be a sign of excess weight.

2. Visual Inspection: Take a look at your pet from above. They should have a discernible waistline. If their body appears more oval than hourglass-shaped, it could indicate overweight.

3. Belly Check: View your pet from the side while standing. Their abdomen should tuck up behind the ribcage. If it sags down, it might be a sign of extra weight.

4. Consult Your Vet: The best way to determine if your pet is overweight is to consult your veterinarian. They can provide a professional assessment and recommend a suitable weight management plan if needed.

Body conditioning scores

Body conditioning scores (BCS) are incredibly useful tools for pet owners, veterinarians, and pet professionals. They help assess the overall health and well-being of dogs and cats by evaluating their body condition and fat composition. Use the body conditioning score sheets from Pet Obesity Prevention for your dog or cat to assess where you think they sit.

Body conditioning score from 'Pet obesity prevention'

Dog Body conditioning score from 'Pet obesity prevention'

Here are some links for videos on how to assess your pet’s body condition:

Remember, addressing pet obesity isn't just about aesthetics; it's about ensuring a long, healthy, and joy-filled life for our beloved companions.


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