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Reducing Pet Obesity

Obesity is a nutritional disease defined by an excess of body fat. Pets that are over nourished, lack adequate exercise, or have a tendency to retain weight are the most at risk for becoming obese. Obesity can result in serious adverse health effects, such as reducing the lifespan, even if your pet is only moderately obese. The best way to approach obesity in pets is to take steps to prevent or reduce its occurrence.

Checking if Your Pet is Overweight

An estimated 59% of cats and 54% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese. There are a few simple tests you can perform at home to determine if your pet is overweight. 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.

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 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, meaning 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 get and sticking to it.

Taking these steps will help reduce your pet’s risk of several health issues such as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, respiratory distress, and high blood pressure.