Obesity is defined as the accumulation of excessive amounts of adipose (fat) tissue in the body and it's one of the most common conditions most vets see.
There are a number of things that can predispose a pet to being overweight or obese which includes genetics, being spayed or neutered, being on a diet that is too high in fat or calories and also living a non-active lifestyle.
How can you determine if your pet is overweight?
The first thing to do is look at the ribs...
If you cannot feel the ribs when you slightly press over the side of your pet's chest, then your pet is most likely overweight. Pets that are overweight also can have extra fat accumulate around the tail and typically do not have a waist.
When examining your pet, Veterinarians can use one of two scales to determine the Body Condition Score of pets. The first scoring system is a scale of 1-5 with 3 being ideal weight and 5 being obese. The other scoring system is a scale of 1-9; when 4.5 is ideal weight and 9 is obese.
Why is it bad for your pet to be overweight? If they are, they are predisposed to a variety of health conditions such as diabetes, osteoarthritis, heart disease and they can overall have a decreased life expectancy.
What to do if you feel your pet is overweight?
First, talk with your veterinarian about your pet. It is important to have your pet examined to ensure that they are otherwise in good health. With your help, your veterinarian can help you develop a weight loss plan. This includes calculating the amount of calories your pet needs based on their ideal weight. It will also include nutritional counseling and a discussion about activities to do with your pet.
Sometimes a diet change may be beneficial. It is always a good idea to decrease the daily amount of treats and snack that may be 'human' food. Sometimes one treat can be the equivalent to humans eating a candy bar. Some owners may feed 4-5 treats per day (that would be 4-5 snicker bars in a day!)
Ways to increase activity include daily walks, daily trips to a dog park and playing fetch for our canine companions. For cats, we recommend moving that food dish around to different spots, using toys that encourage movement and provided cat trees or places to climb.
Veterinarians are there to help pets live as long as possible. They can help you determine the best plan for your pet. There are wonderful stories of pets losing weight and feeling like young puppies again just from the weight loss.
Visit petobesityprevention.org for other ideas and resources.
Source: The Growing Problem of Obesity in Dogs and Cats1-3 Alexander J. German4
One of the biggest challenges that dog owners face is managing their pet's weight especially when the animal also has problems moving or staying active due to joint health issues.
A new dog food option -- Hill's Prescription Diet Metabolic + Mobility was introduced this spring designed to help with both challenges. In fact, a member of the Pipestone family was one of the first to try the new product when it became available.
Max is a ten year old, yellow lab mix that is owned by Pipestone Veterinary Services employee, Kim Lape. He has arthritis in his knees and hips and torn ligaments in both knees.
"When the Metabolic + Mobility product came out, Dr. Weber thought Max might be a good candidate to try it out," said Kim. At the time, Max weighed 102 and was having difficulty with moving around the house and with some of the activities that he had always enjoyed.
Max had been eating Hill's Prescription Diet JD, which was designed for joint issues, and didn't have any issues transitioning to the new food.
"He loves it. He began eating it right away and hasn't had any problems at all," said Kim.
Max has lost just over 10 pounds, weighing in at 91 pounds in September.
"He has had a healthy rate of weight loss, about two percent of his body weight each month, which is exactly where we want him to be at," said Dr. Nicole Weber, small animal veterinarian at Pipestone Veterinary Services.
"Even more important than the weight loss, there has been improved mobility and the positive impact on Max's quality of life," said Kim. "He is now able to go up and down flights of stairs with no problems and is back to some of his favorite activities."
"He is a very energetic and outgoing dog who loves to go on car rides. Before, we had to help him get in and out of the car, but now he is able to climb in by himself," she said.
"The challenges that Max was facing are not unusual," said Dr. Weber. "About 50 percent of the pet population is overweight."
"One of the primary reasons that dogs have arthritis and joint issues is excess weight," she said. "If we are able to decrease their overall weight, we can often improve their arthritic condition without medication."
The Science Diet Metabolic + Mobility dog food contains a special formula of ingredients that helps dogs feel full longer. It contains a synergistic blend of ingredients which works with your pet's unique metabolism. This food combines high levels of omega-3 fatty acids with special fiber blends from fruits and vegetables. This special combination is designed to help pets feel full and satisfied without depriving them of their daily meals. Not only does Science Diet Metabolic + Mobility decrease joint inflammation, but it also helps to rebuild joint fluid, creating comfort.
'One of the hardest things for pet owners to deal with is helping their pets lose weight because they feel guilty about depriving their pets," she said. "With this diet, that isn't a problem because the dog feels full. They are able to decrease total calories without depriving their pets at all."
When the new diet was tested in a blind taste test, dogs were given the food without owners knowing what it was designed to do, said Dr. Weber. The owners were pleased to see the dogs losing weight and moving better as they stayed on the diet.
"A dog can stay on the Metabolic + Mobility diet as long it needs to" said Dr. Weber. "Once the pet reaches its target weight, they can either stay on this food and increase amount per feeding or switch to another diet option, such as Science Diet JD."
Pet owners should keep an even sharper eye on their animal?s mobility as the weather changes.
"When we transition from warmer to colder weather, pet owners may see a difference in their animal's movement," said Dr. Weber. "If your pet is getting up more slowly, or showing signs of limping or lameness, they may be having difficulty with arthritis or joint issues and owners should talk to their veterinarian about whether the Metabolic + Mobility diet is a good option for them," she said.