Pet Obesity

 
Obese cat
Chubby pets are often considered adorable, but the implications of their extra weight are not as sweet. With our furry loved ones, even just a few extra pounds of weight gain can have serious health implications. Excess weight can increase the risk of developing preventable diseases and health conditions. Liver disease, arthritis and diabetes are just a few examples of the diseases your pet is at risk for when they are overweight.
 
 How Does Excess Weight Affect My Pet?
Stress on Joints
Similar to humans, your pet’s musculoskeletal structure is designed to function optimally at a certain weight. Even just a few excess pounds can debilitate their joints and create pain and discomfort. The primary medical condition associated with obesity in canines is osteoarthritis (Degenerative Joint Disease). Additionally, overweight canines are more likely to experience cruciate ligament ruptures, which are quite painful and costly to fix. In recent years, the prevalence of arthritis is increasing at an alarming rate in our feline friends as well, due to excess weight. Unfortunately, there is no cure for arthritis. It is managed through minimizing the pain your pet experiences from the condition.
 
High Blood Sugar & Diabetes

If your pet consumes an inappropriate diet or portion of food, coupled with insufficient exercise, they are likely to develop issues regulating their blood sugar levels. This can occur because their pancreas may not produce enough insulin (the hormone that regulates glucose in the bloodstream), or their body may not effectively utilize insulin. Elevated blood sugar levels can lead to Type II diabetes. Unfortunately, like arthritis, there is no cure for diabetes in dogs, and managing the condition in pets is both expensive and demanding. Effective management typically involves daily insulin injections, strict dietary restrictions, and frequent veterinary visits to monitor progress. Ineffective management of diabetes can result in serious, and even fatal, consequences.

A recent study revealed a 90% increase in the prevalence of diabetes in both cats and dogs between 2011 and 2016. The study also highlights obesity as one of the leading predisposing factors for diabetes.

High Blood Pressure

Obese pets often develop high blood pressure (hypertension). Hypertension has been deemed the “silent killer” because it may not be identified as a health condition your pet is experiencing before it is too late. High blood pressure can lead to kidney disease, heart, and vascular disease.

If your pet has recently put on excess weight, it might be a good idea to ask your veterinarian about conducting a blood pressure test. If identified earlier, interventions can still take place to reduce the impact hypertension may have on your pet. This includes increasing exercise, changing to a low-sodium diet, implementing a weight loss plan, and in more critical cases, putting your pet on medication.

 
Respiratory & Vascular Problems

Excess weight can stress your pet’s heart and lungs, hindering their breathing and circulation. Obese pets, especially small and toy breeds, are prone to developing tracheal collapse, heart disease, and enlarged liver. Additionally, pets with brachycephalic skull structures (such as Pugs, Shih Tzus, etc.) may face heightened respiratory issues due to obesity. This could increase the risk of Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS), a debilitating respiratory condition. Proper respiratory function and circulation are crucial for your pet’s overall health, reducing the likelihood of various serious conditions. Maintaining a healthy weight is essential for ensuring proper respiratory and circulatory function.

Moreover, overweight pets face numerous other health hazards. Overweight cats are more susceptible to bladder and urinary tract diseases, as well as kidney disease. Dogs, when overweight, are at risk of developing intervertebral disc disease, which may necessitate expensive surgical procedures. Additionally, overweight animals are prone to dermatitis and face increased risks during anesthesia. Overall, overweight pets have significantly reduced life expectancy due to the immense and severe health risks associated with obesity.

 

 How Can I Tell if My Pet is Overweight?

You should have this important conversation with your veterinarian, as it may be difficult to assess on your own if your pet is at a healthy weight due to factors such as breed, age, and coat type. Routine, annual visits to your veterinarian are important for accurately monitoring your pet’s weight.

Additionally, you should routinely weigh your pet if possible. You can place your pet on a scale at home or weigh yourself first, then while holding your animal, weigh yourself again and derive your pet’s weight from the difference. If your pet is too large or unmanageable to weigh at home, you can bring your pet to your veterinarian clinic to weigh them

Another way to monitor if your pet is at a healthy weight is to run your hands along the sides of your pet’s chest. You should be able to feel their ribs easily. If you cannot feel their ribs, this is a sign that your pet is most likely overweight. Note that depending on your pet’s coat (if it is thick or long), it may be more difficult to feel their ribcage. This is a very rudimentary test of your pet’s weight, and consultation with your veterinarian should be done.

How Can I Get My Pet to Lose Weight?

Unfortunately, pet weight loss can be quite challenging and time-consuming, which is why maintaining a healthy weight is important. Consistency and dedication are required to see weight loss in your pet. Here are some tips:

Portion Control and Calorie Counting:

Start by setting and following a strict calorie limit diet. Your veterinarian can calculate the right calorie intake for your pet and determine the amount of food to be given to adhere to this limit.

Prescription or Specialized Diets:

Consider dietary options suited to weight loss plans that contain a specialized nutrient blend to create a feeling of fullness for your pet. Consult your veterinarian to determine which diet is right for your pet’s weight loss journey.

Reduce or Eliminate Treats & Snacks:

Treats should be given only when necessary and should be healthy options for your pet. Consult your veterinarian to determine the best treats for your pet.

Make Them Work for Their Food:

Schedule walks and playtime prior to meals. Use toys or slow feeders that require your pet to put in effort for their food, engaging them and preventing them from eating too quickly.

Exercise:

Gradually increase the length of playtime or daily walks to help increase your pet’s stamina and promote weight loss

Maintaining a healthy weight or managing obesity can be difficult, and each pet may present unique challenges. Remember how critical a healthy weight is to your pet’s overall health.

At Brooker Ridge Animal Hospital in Newmarket, we’re happy to help you find the best way to achieve your pet’s optimal weight. If you have any questions or would like to discuss a weight loss plan, please give us a call.

Looking for a veterinary clinic in Newmarket? Give us a call at 905-898-1010, and we’d be happy to see you and your furry friend!

 

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