Obesity is the most common nutritional disorder affecting pets today. It is estimated that 25% of cats and dogs seen by veterinarians are obese. The most common causes of obesity are over-consumption of calories and lack of adequate exercise, but it’s important to realize that obesity has become increasingly recognized as a disease itself.

Fat cells produce hormones called Adipokens that decrease metabolic rate, making it more difficult for obese animals to metabolize energy. Adipokens also inhibit the normal appetite suppression seen in non-obese animals, making obese animals more likely to overeat. Adipokens can affect various organs and put overweight animals at risk for other diseases such as: heart disease, respiratory and urinary disorders, diabetes, arthritis, joint disease/injuries, anesthetic complications, and hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver disease) especially in obese cats. Aside from being significantly at risk for other diseases, overweight animals typically have a poorer quality of life. These animals experience fatigue, intolerance to heat and exercise, and increased levels of pain due to excess strain on their joints.

There are certain factors that may increase your pet’s risk of being overweight. Genetically, some breeds are more prone to being overweight. Common breeds include the Golden retriever, Labrador retriever, Beagle, Bassett Hound, Sheltie, Cocker Spaniel, Cairn terrier, and mix breed cats. In addition, lifestyle is a factor. Does your pet get enough exercise? Are they physically able? Altered metabolic rate is yet another consideration: Metabolism not only slows naturally with age, but also after a pet is spayed or neutered. Spaying and neutering is always recommended as it provides many health benefits, but after the procedure it is important to be aware of changes in your pet’s dietary requirements.

There are many preventive measures that can be taken to avoid weight gain and obesity. We recommended measuring meals to monitor how much food your pet is getting per meal/per day. Animals that graze are typically prone to over-eating. Therefore, twice-a-day feeding regimens can often prevent future problems. In addition, Human food should be avoided as a treat. You may not realize that the calories from human food affect our pets greatly. For example: one ounce of cheddar cheese in a twenty pound dog equates to two and a half hamburgers in an average human. A cup of milk given to a ten pound cat is equivalent to a person eating four and a half hamburgers or 5 chocolate bars. Just 1 hot dog for a twenty pound dog is like a person eating 3 whole hamburgers.

Obesity is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. If you have questions about obesity or weight management, please do not hesitate to discuss these issues with one of our veterinarians. We offer several low calorie diets and can help you formulate a plan to get your obese pet to a normal, healthy weight.