Obesity is affecting an increasing number of pets. An overweight pet can face serious health consequences that decrease their longevity and reduce their quality of life. Our Twin Maples Veterinary Hospital team wants to help prevent pet obesity by providing tips to help maintain your pet at a healthy weight.

#1: Understand the consequences of pet obesity

Pets maintained at a healthy weight live approximately 2.5 years longer than overweight pets, because the excess weight increases your pet’s risk for numerous serious health complications, including:

  • High blood pressure — Similar to humans, overweight pets are at increased risk for high blood pressure, which can cause issues such as heart disease, kidney disease, and retinal detachment.
  • Cancer — The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has linked excess weight to 13 cancer types in people, and evidence suggests that overweight pets are also at increased risk for certain cancers.
  • Diabetes — Excess weight increases your pet’s risk for insulin resistance and diabetes mellitus, which can result in cataracts, kidney issues, and diabetic ketoacidosis.
  • Arthritis — Overweight pets are 2.3 times more likely to develop arthritis than an ideal weight pet.
  • Respiratory disease — Overweight pets often have difficulty breathing because of the extra fat layer lining their chest cavity, which also puts them at higher risk for conditions such as laryngeal paralysis and tracheal collapse.
  • Skin infection — Overweight pets can’t groom themselves as well as ideal weight pets, and their excessive skin folds provide the perfect environment for bacteria and yeast to cause infection.

#2: Schedule regular wellness visits for your pet

Nine out of 10 owners whose pets are overweight consider that their pet is a normal weight. Our veterinary professionals are experts at assessing a pet’s weight, and we can also detect conditions, such as hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease, that can contribute to your pet’s weight gain. A veterinary professional should evaluate your pet at least once a year, and your senior pet every six months, since they are at higher risk for certain health conditions.

#3: Monitor your pet’s weight

As pets age, their metabolism slows down, and they are often less active because of conditions such as arthritis. You may not notice your pet is gaining weight unless you monitor their weight status in the following ways:

  • Weighing your pet — Use a scale designed to weigh pets or babies to track your pet’s weight. Ask our veterinary professionals what they consider your pet’s ideal weight.
  • Evaluating your pet’s body condition score (BCS) — Look at a BCS chart to determine if your pet is carrying excess weight. This tool uses observation and palpation at certain body points to determine your pet’s fat storage. A BCS of one indicates your pet is excessively emaciated, and a BCS of nine indicates they are excessively obese. An ideal BCS is between four and five.

#4: Determine how much food your pet needs

Pets don’t moderate their food intake, and overfeeding is the most common cause of pet obesity. Steps to determine how much food your pet needs include:

  • Calculate your pet’s daily energy needs — Consider your pet’s age, weight, activity level, breed, and spay or neuter status to calculate their daily energy needs.
  • Read your pet’s food label — Check your pet’s food label to determine how many calories are in a certain food portion.
  • Divide your pet’s food — Ideally, pets should eat two or three times a day, so divide the amount of food they need into the number of meals they eat throughout the day.

#5: Measure your pet’s meal portions

Guesstimating your pet’s meal portion can easily lead to overfeeding. Use a standard measuring cup or a kitchen scale to accurately measure your pet’s meal portion.

#6: Limit your pet’s treats

Treats should account for no more than 10% of your pet’s overall caloric intake. Choose healthy options, such as cut up vegetables, and ensure you account for these calories in your pet’s overall daily energy allotment.

#7: Exercise your pet

All pets need daily exercise to keep mentally and physically fit. Every pet is different, and some pets require more exercise than others, depending on their breed and age. Tips to get your pet moving include:

  • Walking — Walking your pet briskly two to three times a day can be great exercise for small-breed dogs and senior pets.
  • Playing a game — If your pet has a favorite game, such as fetch, schedule time daily to work off their excess energy.
  • Chasing prey — Use a laser pointer or a wand style toy to entice your cat to run and jump as they chase their prey.
  • Playing sport — Enroll your pet in a sport, such as agility, dock diving, or flyball, to enhance their exercise experience. This also strengthens your bond, since you will spend a lot of time together practicing.

Following these tips should help you maintain your pet at a healthy weight to increase their longevity and improve their quality of life. If you would like to schedule a wellness examination so we can determine whether your pet is carrying excess weight, contact our Twin Maples Veterinary Hospital team, and we can develop a safe weight-loss plan, if necessary.