What is obesity?
Obesity is classified as your pet’s body being composed of 35%+ body fat, whereas the ideal body fat percentage is between 16% and 25%. During the winter, it is not unlikely that your pet spent more time inside the house. Our Canadian winters are cold, and it is hard to gather the motivation to take your pet on those long walks that they are accustomed to. The result–a little bit of weight gain for everybody!
Now, some weight gain is okay and easy to fix. For most pets, when you return to your usual walking schedule, the extra pounds will come off. For some pets though, the problem may be more difficult to solve. Obesity in your animals is just as much of a problem as obesity in your children and your own body. It may seem like giving your pet a few extra treats or table scraps will make them happy, but the results of such actions will actually cause a far worse standard of living in the long run.
How did this happen?
You may be thinking, “my pet doesn’t even eat that much–how is he/she obese?” Well, there are many reasons why your pet may be obese. First of all, packaged food guidelines are just guidelines. It may suggest a certain food serving for a 30 lb. animal, but consider this: a 30 lb. Chihuahua is very different from a 30 lb. Sheltie. Also, if the kibble calls for a cup of food–it means a measuring cup, a.k.a. 250 ml. An average kitchen mug may be different than this size, so ask your veterinarian to provide you with a measuring cup to feed your animals! Other factors include genetics, metabolic speed and too many treats! Make sure to watch your kids and ensure they aren’t giving your pet extra food when you’re not around.
What problems does obesity cause?
Obesity can cause many health problems, including arthritis, respiratory compromise, diabetes mellitus (obese cats have been found to have a 50% decrease in insulin sensitivity), hepatic lipidosis (when the liver becomes infiltrated with fat and then fails), reduced life span, and increased surgical/anesthetic risk (due to drug dosing becoming less accurate).
What Can I Do?
Like I said, the solution may be simple, but not always. Just like humans, all animals’ bodies are different, and it may be more difficult for some animals than others. One thing that you must NOT do is feed the pet what you might consider to be ‘less’. Always ask your veterinarian for advice before attempting to manage the weight yourself. A common mistake cat owners make is changing their pet’s food suddenly and assuming they will eat it–this is not always the case. If the cat doesn’t eat for 48 hours then they can experience a disease called fatty liver, so please talk to your veterinarian about the proper way to transition to a new diet. A more formal approach needs to be taken, i.e., feeding a prescription diet for weight loss, feeding a measured amount, and coming in for regular weigh-ins at the vet’s office every 30 days for precise weight monitoring.
Patience is key. If the weight isn’t coming off right away, you may actually need to feed more instead of less. As your pet loses weight, the amount you feed them will have to change each month as well, and remember that cats and dogs are different! Fun Fact: Cats tend to lose weight better on canned food than dry! Also, putting your cat’s food in a high place that they have to jump to will automatically require them to have a bit more exercise, or you can consider using a food ball to stimulate prey behaviour. Finally, putting away your animal’s food once they are finished their meal for selected hours of the day will reduce grazing–this is especially important for cats. In some cases, the pet may have a medical condition that causes obesity, so consulting your veterinarian about the problem is very important. Remember, if you want your pet to be happy, everyday healthy eating and exercise is a necessity.
Brooks, Wendy C. “Obesity.” Veterinary Partner. N.p., 20 Apr. 2010. Web. 20 May 2014. <http://www.veterinarypartner.com/Content.plx?P=A&S=0&C=0&A=3082>.
Content Contributor: Dr. Sandy Drury