The majority of pet owners consider their pet a family member who deserves pampering. But, showing your pet love by overfeeding can lead to obesity and cause serious health complications. Our Premier Pet Hospital team shares information about why pet obesity is concerning and guidelines to help you manage your pet’s weight.

Pet obesity repercussions

Pet obesity is more than a cosmetic issue. Overweight pets have difficulty moving around and grooming themselves, and they are at higher risk for several serious health complications, including:

  • Cancer — Excess adipose tissue produces chronic, low-grade inflammation throughout the body that increases the pet’s risk for certain cancers.
  • Hypertension — Obesity in pets is associated with hypertension, which can lead to issues such as kidney disease, retinal detachment, and congestive heart failure.
  • Bladder stones — Obesity is a risk factor for calcium oxalate bladder stones, which typically must be surgically removed, since they can’t be dissolved by changing the pet’s diet. Bladder stones that are not removed can enter the pet’s urethra, causing a potentially life-threatening blockage. 
  • Arthritis — The chronic, low-grade inflammation caused by adipose tissue can result in changes to the joint cartilage and lead to arthritis. A pet’s excess weight also places additional strain on their joints, exacerbating the issue.
  • Respiratory problems — Excess fat lining the pet’s chest restricts breathing, which puts obese pets at higher risk for conditions such as laryngeal paralysis and tracheal collapse.
  • Diabetes — Obese pets are at increased risk for diabetes, which can lead to health complications such as cataracts, hypoglycemia, and diabetic ketoacidosis.
  • Skin infections — The additional fat deposits commonly cause excess skin folds that create the perfect environment for bacteria and yeast to multiply and cause infections.

Pet weight management

The best way to protect your pet from pet obesity repercussions is to maintain them at a healthy weight. Guidelines include:

  • Making regular wellness visits — Our veterinary team is trained to assess your pet’s weight, and regular wellness visits help us determine if they are overweight, and allow us to track their progress. In addition, regular wellness visits can help us detect certain diseases that contribute to weight gain in their early stages, before they can cause a problem for your pet.
  • Weighing your pet — You see your pet every day, and you may not notice small changes to their weight. Weigh them on a pet scale every two to three weeks to ensure they are maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Assessing your pet’s body condition score (BCS) — A BCS is a nine-point scale, with an ideal score of four or five, that is used to assess a pet’s weight status. You use physical observations and palpation to determine fat coverage at particular body points. In general, your pet should have a defined waist, their ribs should be easily palpable, and their abdomen should not sag. 
  • Calculating your pet’s caloric needs — The labels on your pet’s food bag can help you determine how much food your pet needs, but these labels are only a starting point. You must consider your pet’s activity level, spay or neuter status, BCS, and age when calculating their daily caloric needs. Online pet calorie calculators that make the calculations easier are available. 
  • Measuring meal portions — Once you have determined your pet’s daily food requirements, use measuring cups or a kitchen scale to accurately measure each meal’s portion, to help prevent accidental overfeeding. 
  • Avoiding people food — Pets are healthier when they aren’t fed table scraps. 
  • Limiting treats — Treats are fine on occasion, but they should be limited. Consider healthy options, such as baby carrots, broccoli, and snap peas, and ensure the calories are included in your pet’s daily calorie count. 
  • Exercising your pet — Pets need daily exercise to stay active and burn excess calories. Schedule at least 10 to 15 minutes twice a day to get your pet moving. If your pet isn’t used to exercise, gradually increase their activity level over several weeks to prevent problems. 

Pet weight loss guidelines

If your pet is overweight, you can take steps to help them lose the excess weight, including:

  • Consult a veterinarian — Always consult a veterinary professional before starting your pet on a weight loss plan. They could have an underlying health condition that would make calorie restriction dangerous. 
  • Choose an appropriate food — Simply limiting your pet’s normal food can lead to malnutrition. Find a diet specifically formulated to help your pet lose weight, because these diets contain the appropriate amount of nutrients and extra fiber to help your pet feel satiated.
  • Monitor your pet’s weight status — Weigh your pet and assess their BCS weekly to monitor their progress, so you can make any necessary adjustments.
  • Consider physical therapy — Physical therapy can help your pet safely increase their activity level.

Hopefully, these guidelines will help you maintain your pet at a healthy weight to prevent complications associated with pet obesity. If your pet has a few extra pounds to lose, contact our Premier Pet Hospital team, so we can devise a safe weight loss strategy.