Obesity in dogs and cats is not uncommon, but it can be life threatening.
“If they become a coffee-table with legs, they are probably obese,” said DVM Jolee Wennersten. On a more serious note, she stated that pet obesity must be taken seriously, as it is an important medical condition with serious health consequences.
Pet health consequences
The same problems people experience with obesity can happen to animals. “The big thing is joints,” Wennersten said. She has had dogs come into her clinic that by the age of seven were not able to walk. “What do you do with a dog that can’t walk anymore?”
Other health problems include arthritis and back problems. Diabetes is much more common in overweight cats. Wennersten stated that she did not see heart problems as a big issue with obese pets, as they often cannot walk before their hearts give out. “They don’t live long enough to really have as much problem with that.”
Treats and overfeeding equal an unhealthy pet
As with humans, it comes down to two main things – quantity of food and exercise. Wennersten stated that although most of her clients feel they are not over-feeding their pets, many do not measure the food and are feeding them more then they realize. She encourages her clients to cut back on the food and measure the amount they are giving them. In addition, with dogs, watch the treats. She heard that a typical regular-sized dog bone snack has as many calories as a chocolate candy-bar.
Wennersten suggested buying low calorie biscuits and rather then giving them the whole thing, just break off a piece. “A dog doesn’t care how much they get, just that they get something,” she said.
Treats are not as big a problem with cats. Their problem is eating too much and indoor cats not getting enough exercise.
With multiple cats, it is hard to regulate how much dry food each cat is eating, but the fattest ones are usually the ones getting the most food. Wennersten suggested putting them in separate rooms for feeding.
Exercise is key to a healthy pet
Exercise is also an important element in helping your dog or cat slim down. Taking your dog for a daily walk will often benefit the owner, as well as the pet. For indoor cats, exercise may be a bit more challenging. Find a toy they enjoy and encourage them to play with it, or run around with a string and get them to chase you. Wennersten stated it is just a matter of finding a toy they like and taking some time to play with them. “It doesn’t take a lot of exercise, just doing it.”
Wennersten believes 90% of pet owners mean well, but they are not diligent about portion control and no treats. “It’s the same thing with people,” she said. “It boils down to what they put in their mouth and how much they exercise.”