Obesity and Your Pet
Generally, obesity occurs because there is an imbalance of energy intake vs. energy expenditure. Dietary factors such as low quality food, excess snacks or treats, and table scraps all contribute to weight gain. Environmental factors such as lack of exercise also contribute to obesity. Sedentary animals gain more weight than active ones just like people.
There are certain breeds that have predisposition to obesity. As animals age, they have less energy needs because of decreased activity and because they have less lean body mass. By the time your pet reaches 7 years old, because their metabolism decreases, their daily energy requirement decreases by about 20% compared to a young adult. If you feed an older pet the same amount as a young adult, your pet may become overweight. Spay or neutering your pet may alter your pet’s metabolism and may cause weight gain. After your pet is spayed or neutered, you should adjust their food if your pet starts to gain weight. Certain medications could cause your pet to gain weight such as (Phenobarbital –seizure medication). If your veterinarian informs you that a certain medication could cause weight gain, you need to adjust your pet’s food intake to prevent weight gain. Endocrine diseases such as Hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease could cause your pet to gain weight. If you are appropriately feeding your pet but your pet is still gaining weight, contact your veterinarian to find out if your pet may have medical reasons for the weight gain.
What are the consequences of obesity?
Studies have shown that pets with ideal body condition score lived 1.8 years longer than overweight pets. Similar to humans, obese pets have a higher risk of developing diabetes. Obesity in pets can cause a variety of other medical problems including cardiopulmonary disease, hypertension, a variety of orthopedic diseases such as osteoarthritis and other joint diseases
My pet is getting larger, what can I do?
Measure the appropriate amount of food and feed on a schedule. Avoid giving too many treats too often. Showing affection does not always have to involve food. Your pet may experience the same level of joy by simply giving praise. Avoid free feeding your pet because it is difficult to now how much your pet is actually eating. Similar to people, they tend to over eat if they have a buffet offering than a set meal.
Am I feeding the right food and amount?
The feeding guidelines suggested from your dog food bag may not be appropriate for your pet. Your pet’s breed, age, life style, and medical condition will need to be taken into consideration to formulate the energy requirement for your pet. Your veterinarian can help you find the right type of food and calculate the correct amount to feed your pet to achieve the ideal body weight.
Food is love, but don’t love me to obesity.
We all like to eat whether we are hungry or not. Pets have the same desire to eat as we do. A pet that begs for food is not necessarily hungry, but just wants a yummy snack. Resist the temptation to feed your pet just because they are begging. It is important to prevent the temptation to beg for food. Refrain from eating snacks in front of your pets. When you are ready to cook or eat a meal, restrict your pets from the kitchen/dining area so you don’t give into their begging behavior.
Move those little legs.
Just as we need exercise, our pets need exercise too. Having your pet play in the back yard may not be enough exercise. Leash waking your pet is important in helping your pets lose weight and maintain a healthy body weight.
Remember, your pet is 100% dependent on you to feed them an appropriate diet to maintain healthy body weight. They cannot go to the store, buy the food, open the refrigerator and feed themselves. You have the power to help them reach their ideal weight so they can live a happier, longer and healthier life. Please contact your family veterinarian and ask for a weight loss plan if your pet is overweight. Commit to a healthy weight plan for your pet because you love them!