Is my Pet Overweight?

Q: “Help! My cat, Mr. Purr Pants, is so fat! He doesn’t exercise and justlays around the house or just looks out the window. He doesn’t eat a lot and only occasionally gets treats. I heard being overweight can make him sick. How can I make him lose weight?”

A: Poor Mr. Purr Pants, you are not alone! This is unfortunately a very common issue in cats and dogs (and even pet rodents, reptiles and birds).

Pets and Obesity – How to Help them Lose Weight

Obesity has become a frequent diagnosis in our companion animals, with over half of dogs and cats being overweight. The great news is that you have become aware of the problem and are trying to help fix it.

As you may be aware, there are similar health detriments from being overweight for our critters as there are for humans. These include a higher risk of becoming diabetic, cardiac problems, increased risk of joint disease and arthritis, skin conditions, organ dysfunction, respiratory problems and a decreased life expectancy. This is why it is so important to correct a weight problem, and to preferably help prevent one.

Your vet can help you decide where your pet falls on the Body Condition Scale. This is a grading of how much fat coverage is present and ranges from emaciation to severe obesity. There are many tools online to help you get an idea of your cat’s or dog’s body condition score. If you suspect that the heavier end of the scale is where they lie, it’s time to visit your veterinarian for a health screen and weight loss plan.

Some tips to help lose weight or prevent weight gain:

• Make sure your cat or dog is on a food that is correct for their life stage – meaning an adult or senior pet should not be on puppy food. Your veterinarian may suggest a prescription weight loss diet if needed.

• Portion control – feed measured amounts daily, dividing up into meals. Leaving food down all the time can lead to overeating.

• Exercise regimen – first, make sure your vet checks that your overweight pet is healthy enough, and then commit to daily exercise. Walking dogs during the cooler parts of the day is a great low-impact exercise. For cats, stimulating their hunting instinct by placing measured amounts of food in different locations such as up in a cat tree and in different rooms will burn a few more calories. Using a food toy that dispenses their kibble as they bat it around can also get them more active as well. Make sure to play with your cat and dog using their favorite toys. Some cats like to fetch, too!

• Limit treats – calories in cat and dog treats add up quick. Replace store bought treats with healthy alternatives for your dog. Using carrots or green beans instead will cut calories greatly. One pet treat can be equivalent to us eating an entire hamburger worth of calories for them!

• Have a veterinary exam – underlying medical conditions may lead to weight management difficulty. Thyroid problems, arthritis making exercise painful or cardiac problems can all be associated. A thorough physical exam and blood work is a great baseline to help you and your loved one on the road to a healthier physique.

Gradual weight loss is the goal, so don’t get frustrated if you aren’t seeing a difference right away. Keep up the hard work to help reach the ideal weight for your fluffy loved one! Please call to set up an appointment so we can help get you and your pet on the best dietary plan.

Dr. Tiffany Beischel is a local licensed veterinarian who is happy to answer any questions you may have about your pets. Feel free to call her at (386) 663-3989. 

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