Obesity in Dogs and Cats
I’m going to be blunt. I’ve seen far too many overweight pets. Not just a-few-too-many-kibbles pets, but in-serious-danger overweight pets.
Let’s face it, it’s difficult to keep most dogs or cats at a healthy weight, especially when many of them are domestic house pets and aren’t able to get much exercise. But if you want to keep your pet happy & healthy, then start learning about the threats that obese pets face and what you can do to keep your pets fit.
An overweight dog or cat faces many health problems, and is probably going to have a shorter life. It takes work and some discipline on your part, but fighting obesity will give your four-legged friend a longer and happier life.
How Can I Tell If My Pet Is Overweight or Obese?
When looking down at the top of your pet, you should see an indentation just behind the ribs.
Animals naturally narrow at their waist, and then widen again at their hips. If, when looking down at your pet, you do not see an indentation – the torso of your pet is completely straight – then your pet is overweight and probably approaching obese. A healthy pet will have this indentation.
You can also check the weight of your pet with a light rub alongside of the dog or cat’s ribs. You should barely feel the tops of your pet’s ribs. If you can’t, then, again, this is a sign that your pet needs to lose some weight.
What Are the Symptoms of Obesity?
Obesity causes serious health issues. Many pet owners tell themselves that even if their pets are overweight, and even if they will have a shorter life, at least that life will be a happy one. Unfortunately, the health problems caused by obesity are painful and not worth that extra treat or larger food portion. From the constant pain of arthritis to constricting lung problems, obesity will lower the quality of your pet’s life.
Here are just a few of the issues that obesity leads to:
- Hip Dysplasia (and other orthopedic diseases) – Hip Dysplasia is a common joint disease in dogs where the socket of the hip’s ball and socket joint is too shallow. Although hip dysplasia is a condition that a dog is born with, obesity makes the disease much, much worse. The greater the forces that the joints have to bear, the quicker that those joints will wear out
- A dog’s joints, already weakened by hip dysplasia, cannot tolerate the additional weight that obesity puts on them. Other orthopedic diseases oppress the joints similarly, making the risk of joint failure much greater.
- Poorly Functioning Lungs – In many animals, obesity makes the lungs functionally insufficient. For example, lungs that were made for a ten pound cat are grossly inadequate when that same animal weights eighteen pounds.
- Diabetes Mellitus – Diabetes Mellitus is a condition found in cats where the feline loses their ability to produce enough insulin. Obesity largely increases the chance of a pet developing this condition.
What Can I Do?
Most, if not all, of the time, the problem lies with the pet’s eating habits. A pet that is bored and doesn’t have much to do will see feeding time as an exciting break from the monotony of life. This leads to them overeating.
A pet that has been fed scraps or that is used to begging for food will learn to ‘train’ their owner to only feed them the foods they like. They will begin to tolerate only their favorites, making it harder for the owner to put them on a diet. The problem is only compounded upon when owners don’t recognize the importance of keeping their pet at a healthy weight. After all, he’s so cute – one more treat can’t hurt!
Once an animal has gained weight, it’s hard to get it off again. As a pet owner, you need to take lengthy strides to ensure your pet actually moves in the right direction:
- No matter how much or how little you are currently feeding your dog or cat, cut that amount in half. This means everything that you’re feeding your pet – don’t limit their intake per meal and then double the treats that they get. Warning: A pet that is used to being fed whatever/whenever he or she wants might rebel. Cats especially learn quickly that if they meow loudly and consistently enough, their owners will eventually give in. For the health of your pet, stay strictly on schedule.
- Feed your dog or cat more times per day. If you’re feeding your dog once a day, split that amount in half and feed him two times a day. This will make your pet feel fuller. Although you’re feeding him or her half as much as they’re used to, they have less time to feel hungry, and their bodies will be ‘tricked’ into feeling more satisfied.
- Give your pet something to do. Anything that will serve as a distraction helps. Taking your dog on walks, buying some new toys for your cat, playing with your pet – not only will your pet burn calories, they’ll also be distracted from their food.
- Don’t feed your dog or cat canned food, treats, or any human food. One of the things that has created such a problem with obesity in pets is that the food is so tasty. Animals aren’t used to their food being tasty. Think about what they eat in the wild: mice, rabbits, and other freshly killed animals. The less they enjoy their food, the less your pets will obsess over it.
Your pet will have a higher risk of developing many medical problems if they’re overweight. Don’t hesitate to take action for the wellbeing of your dog or cat.
Pets can easily be trained to adjust to new schedules, and, after a few weeks of strictly limiting your pet’s food intake, feeding them several times a day at a certain time, and refusing to feed them any treats, your pet will become accustomed to the new routine. Your efforts will be well paid off, resulting in a healthier and happier pet.