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Obesity in Pets

          At TCAP, we see an alarming number of pets over their breed’s ideal weight ranges. However, this is not simply a problem that faces North Texas pets. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 54% of dogs and cats (approximately 89 million pets) in the United States are overweight or obese. A pet that weighs more than their healthy weight puts him at risk for developing serious illness, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, liver problems, digestive problems, or joint deterioration.

Checking if Your Pet is Overweight

          Addressing this problem starts by first determining if your pet is at a healthy weight. You should be able to see and feel the outline of your dog’s ribs without excess fat covering, feel and see your dog’s waist clearly when viewed from above, and you should be able to see that your dog’s belly is tucked up when viewed from the side. For cats, you need to be able to see and feel your cat’s ribs, spine, and hip bones, his waist should be clearly visible when viewed from above, and his belly shouldn’t be sagging underneath. If your pet does not fit the frame of an ideal weight, then it may be time to identify the cause and address the issue to ensure your pet’s long term health.

Common Causes

          While there are several causes of obesity in pets, the most common is a simple imbalance between a pet’s energy usage and calorie intake. The most common factors that lead to this imbalance are a lack of exercise, overfeeding, feeding pets high-calorie foods (human food), or frequent treats. Pets do not understand the importance of diet and exercise, so it is up to us, the owners, to make sure they have what they need to live happy and healthy lives.

Treatment and Prevention

          Treatment for obesity is focused on weight loss and maintaining a decreased body weight for the long term. This is accomplished by reducing caloric intake and increasing your dog’s time spent exercising.  Much of this will require making time to ensure that your pet is getting the exercise they need through extra walks or more regular play time. It will also be important to remain conscious of the food your pet is consuming. This means giving no handouts at the table, following the recommended portions listed on your pets’ food bag, and setting a limit on the number of treats your pet can receive in a day/week. Then you can move on to the most difficult part, staying consistent with your pets adjusted feeding habits.

          Taking these steps will require discipline for both you and your pet. While the changes in diet may bring around some extra begging, the increased exercise and improved long-term health will be sure to improve your pet’s overall happiness.

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