If you need help with your pet’s weight management, read through some of the tips below, and then contact us online or call us at 512-459-4336 to learn more about our weight management plans.
I HAVE BEEN TOLD THAT MY DOG IS OBESE AND MUST BE PUT ON A DIET. IS THIS TRUE?
YES – Nearly one-third (33%) of all adults in the United States are obese. Unfortunately, this same number now applies to our pets. Obesity leads to several diseases both in pets and people. Type II diabetes, heart disease and arthritis are the most common weight-related disorders.
Diet and weight reduction are the key to ensuring that your pet lives as long and healthy a life as possible.
WHAT IS OBESITY?
Obesity is defined as weighing 30% more than the ideal weight. With humans, this is fairly straightforward and can be determined by consulting weight and height charts. Dogs and cats are often diagnosed as obese by a combination of weight charts and body scoring.
A simplified form of body scoring follows:
RIBS – Easily felt with no fat covering
TAIL BASE – Bones protrude with no tissue between the skin and bone
SIDE VIEW – Severe abdominal tuck or “drawn” appearance
OVERHEAD VIEW – Exaggerated hourglass shape
RIBS – Easily felt with no fat covering
TAIL BASE – Bones are raised with little tissue between the skin and bone
SIDE VIEW – Abdominal tuck
OVERHEAD VIEW – Significant hourglass shape
RIBS – Easily felt with slight (1/2”) fat cover
TAIL BASE – Smooth but bones can be felt under a thin layer of fat
SIDE VIEW – Abdominal tuck
OVERHEAD VIEW – Well-proportioned waist is present
RIBS – Difficult to feel with moderate (>1/2”) fat cover
TAIL BASE – Some thickening or widening but bones can be felt under a moderate layer of fat
SIDE VIEW – No abdominal tuck or waist
OVERHEAD VIEW – Back is slightly broadened
RIBS – Difficult to feel under thick fat cover
TAIL BASE – Thickened and difficult to feel under a thick layer of fat
SIDE VIEW – Fat hangs down from the abdomen and there is no waist
OVERHEAD VIEW – Markedly wide
IF MY DOG IS OVERWEIGHT, WILL HIS BEHAVIOR CHANGE?
Most overweight or obese dogs are less active and do not play as much as normal dogs. These pets may be reluctant to climb stairs or jump into cars and often pant excessively after very minor exertion.
WHAT IS THE CAUSE OF OBESITY?
Obesity is the accumulation of excess energy stored as fat. It occurs when your pet receives more calories then he needs and expends. Hypothyroidism is another cause of obesity and weight problems. Any overweight dog should be tested for hypothyroidism before beginning a weight loss program.
I HAD MY DOG NEUTERED. DO YOU THINK THIS CAUSED THE PROBLEM?
It is very unlikely that neutering caused your pet’s weight problem. There is no scientific research that concludes that neutering causes obesity in dogs.
MY DOG CAN’T BE OBESE BECAUSE HE ONLY EATS A SMALL AMOUNT OF FOOD EVERY DAY.
Obesity often develops insidiously. We think we are feeding our dogs only small quantities of food but tend to forget the treats and table foods. These treats add calories and result in weight gain. Even a few calories can add up over time.
WHAT CAN I DO?
With today’s advances in nutrition, weight loss has never been easier. Your veterinarian will design a safe and effective weight loss program to meet your dog’s lifestyle.
Encourage brisk, thirty-minute walks twice daily. Discontinue feeding table foods and treats. Instead, offer carrots, broccoli or veterinary-approved low-calorie treats.
Most pets can lose weight if you adhere to these recommendations. Weight loss in pets and humans is made up of an interaction between reduced caloric intake (eating less) and increasing caloric expenditures (more physical activity). The great news is that weight reduction is about 60% diet and 40% exercise. Weight loss is often a matter of diligence and persistence. Remember that the reason you are doing this is to help your pet live as long and healthy a life as possible. Who knows, you both may benefit from this diet!.
This client information sheet is based on material written by Ernest Ward, DVM.
© Copyright 2005 Lifelearn Inc. Used with permission under license. December 30, 2008
IS FELINE OBESITY A PROBLEM?
YES – obesity, defined as an excess of body weight of 30% or more, is the most common nutritional disease of domestic cats. Although the frequency varies from one country to the next, on average up to 40% of all adult cats are obese! Despite these alarming figures, very little is known about the detrimental effects of obesity on feline health.
OBESITY IN CATS IS A KNOWN RISK FACTOR FOR:
TYPE 2 DIABETES MELLITUS
CERTAIN FORMS OF CANCER
LOWER URINARY TRACT DISEASE
In humans, obesity causes an increase in morbidity and mortality at all ages and is associated with diabetes mellitus, certain types of cancer, impaired mobility and arthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease, and other illnesses. Recent studies suggest that heart disease also develops in obese cats! More research is needed to evaluate this and to determine what other detrimental effects obesity has on cats. Obesity in cats is associated with Hepatic Lipidosis. This is a severe form of liver failure in cats. It typically occurs in cats that are obese and have undergone a brief period of “stress” which causes anorexia. The “stress” may be as simple as a change of house or a change in diet. When it first became recognized, Hepatic Lipidosis was an almost universally fatal disease in cats. Fortunately, with improved, aggressive and prolonged therapy about 80% of affected cats can now be successfully treated. However, because of the risk for this potentially fatal disease, weight loss programs for obese cats need to be done cautiously and always under the care of a veterinarian.
WHAT CAUSES OBESITY IN CATS AND HOW SHOULD IT BE TREATED?
Many factors contribute to obesity in cats, and not all of them are clearly understood. Some are probably genetic, while others are related to diet and environment. It is important for the cat owner and veterinarian to keep these factors in mind when treating the obese feline patient. Prevention is better than treatment, but this is not always easy. Indoor cats are more prone to obesity, perhaps because they eat more out of boredom, but also because they have less opportunity to stay trim through exercise. Remember that everybody should run and play, including cats!
Once a cat becomes obese, the challenge for owner and veterinarian alike is to safely promote weight loss to reach optimum weight. In the long run it is better to set realistic goals for weight reduction rather than attempting to force the cat down to a “normal” weight. Usually a 15-20% reduction in weight is a good target that can easily be achieved! Rapid weight loss should be avoided, since it puts the cat at risk for development of severe liver disease. Weight that is lost slowly is more likely to stay lost! There are no drugs or magic pills that can be used safely or effectively. Commercial “restricted-calorie” and weight loss diets are available from veterinarians and provide the basis for a successful weight loss program. However, they are more effective when combined with additional exercise. This also has the advantage of providing more time for interaction between the cat and the family, which we know provides enjoyment and is beneficial for the health of both. With some patience and extra care, obese cats can be treated safely and effectively, with the ultimate goal of prolonging a healthy happy life!