An Epidemic! Overweight Pets:
53% of dogs in the US are overweight with 5% being classified as obese.
55% of cats in the US are overweight.
How to tell if your pet is overweight.
- Feel over the ribs and spine. If you can easily feel the ribs and spine but cannot see them, your pet is the perfect weight. If you have to dig to feel them, your pet is overweight.
- Look at their “abdominal tuck”. This is where their abdomen meets their back legs. Does the abdomen look “empty” or is it rounded and hanging down. Ideally, the abdomen does not look empty, but also, does not hang. It simply tucks up into the back legs.
- Other areas that animals store fat is along their neck and over their tail head. Check these areas as well.
How to weigh your dog or cat.
- Using a baby scale for small dogs and cats is best. Typically, their weights are much lower than our weights. So, if the scale is a half a pound off that is significant in relation to these little ones total weight.
- For larger dogs (20# and above), weigh yourself then weigh yourself holding your dog.
- Use your veterinary clinic’s scale! 🙂 Most veterinary clinics do not mind if you call ahead and ask to use their scale.
Why is my pet so overweight?
- Some breeds are prone to being overweight. Beagles, labs, rottweilers, and golden retrievers are only a couple of these breeds. These dogs require a strict diet to maintain a healthy weight.
- People food. Those adorable begging eyes from our beloved pets are hard to resist! But you must! Human foods tend to be more calorie and fat dense than dog foods. Giving your pet a bite of your hamburger or french fries is the equivalent to giving yourself an ice cream sundae or Hershey bar. If they get too much, they will become overweight quickly.
- Lack of portion control. Leaving your pet’s bowl full of food or overfeeding, will result in your pet becoming overweight. Most bags of food have portions to feed based on weight on the back of the bag. Find out from your veterinarian what your pet’s weight should be and feed ⅔-¾ of the amount the bag tells you to feed for that weight (more on this later).
- Endocrine disease. There are several diseases: hypothyroidism and Cushing’s, to name a few, that will result in your pet being unable to lose weight. If you are concerned, have your veterinarian run blood work as soon as possible.
- Keep track of their weight. Weigh them. then begin your weight loss program. Weigh once a month to see if they are losing. The goal is to get them to lose 1-2% of their total body weight per month.
- Portion control. This applies to treats and food. Treats should be less than 10% of the total calories in the diet. Also, feeding less food and supplementing with canned green beans or cooked carrots will achieve your pet’s weight loss while still allowing him or her to feel full. Remember: feed ⅔ to ¾ of what the bag suggests for their ideal weight. The reason you do this is the bag is counting calories for a very active dog (aka hiking in the mountains, search and rescue, etc). Most of the dogs we see in our practice are kept inside the majority of the day until their owners get home. They do not require many calories at all. Ask you veterinarian to calculate the calories your pet needs.
- Diet food. Sometimes getting patients to lose food on a regular adult diet is impossible. For those patients trying an over the counter or even prescription diet will oftentimes result in weight loss. Remember cut out all people food and reduce treats significantly during the diet.
- Exercise. If your pet is obese, this may not be a good idea (too much weight and walking can harm the joints), but if not, throwing the ball for 30 minutes a day, playing with a laser pointer, or going for a walk is great for weight loss. It also helps your pet’s heart and lungs!
- Don’t give in to begging. To most people, food is love. That is how most owners show their pets that they care. It is so hard when your pet is asking politely, or in some cases, demanding food. Giving cooked carrots, canned green beans, and other cooked veggies are the only people foods that are sort-ave okay to give when they are dieting. Remember calories add up. NOTE: Feeding foods high in sugars and fat increase your pet’s risk of developing pancreatitis, which is a lifelong disease of the digestive system.
- No people food. I know I’m saying it again. Truly, the calories in people food are too high to be given to your pet. Avoid this.
- Fat is an organ too and being overweight increases inflammation in the body and leads to other disease states such as: diabetes, arthritis, skin issues, heart issues, and increased blood pressure.
- Overweight pets are also at high risk for some or all of the following symptoms: trouble breathing, heat stroke, compromised immune system, and decreased life span.