With the New Year comes new resolutions for healthy living and weight loss. Over half of our beloved pets are obese. If your pet is in the overweight majority, you should think about including them in your New Year resolutions for healthy living. Losing weight and getting in shape not only adds years to your pet’s life, but it also makes those years more enjoyable and decreases their risk of additional medical conditions. Make a resolution to include your pet in any of your resolutions!
Obesity is defined as weighing more than 30% of an ideal weight. Dogs and cats are often diagnosed as obese by a combination of weight charts and body condition scoring (BCS). Body condition scoring is done by looking at specific areas on the animal’s body and assigning a number to the overall condition. In our practice, we use a 1 to 5 scale, with a score of 3 being ideal.
As few as 5 pounds above your pet’s ideal weight can put them at risk for developing serious medical conditions. When your pet is overweight or obese, it no longer is a question of “if” your pet will develop a condition secondary to the excess weight, but more of question of “how many and how soon!” Some common disorders associated with excess weight include osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart and respiratory disease, many forms of cancer, and up to 2.5 years of decreased life expectancy. Additionally, heavier pets tend to interact less with their families, are less energetic, and less playful. We may even overlook illnesses attributing their lethargy to their ‘normal laziness’ and not a symptom of disease. It’s amazing to hear stories of pets that have a dramatic transformation in behavior once they achieve weight loss.
If you think you pet is overweight or obese, please consult with your veterinary team prior to starting your pet on a diet. For starters, there are several medical conditions that can cause weight gain, and a strict diet would not be advised. Also, overweight cats can develop a life-threatening form of liver disease if they have too restrictive of a diet or lose weight too quickly. Your veterinary team will assess your pet and make recommendations on an individual basis for you.