Is my pet Obese?

A health series article by Pet Health Helpline

Obesity is a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have a negative effect on your pet’s health.

Pet obesity is sadly on the rise; according to the British Veterinary Association a recent study showed that the UK has the highest number of obese pets in the world. Obesity can affect all pets and it can become a serious issue greatly reducing their quality of life and even reducing their life span. Due to the extra weight, pets are less active, play less and get less enjoyment out of life.

Why does it matter if my pet is overweight?

As well as a reduced quality of life, obese animals can suffer with serious health problems and make existing problems worse. The health implications include;

  • Heart disease
  • Joint problems
  • Diabetes
  • Respiratory problems
  • Cancer

Fatty tissue secretes hormones affecting appetite, inflammation, insulin levels and bodily function. It can also affect blood pressure and water balance leady to kidney problems.

Causes of pet obesity

The causes of pet obesity are fairly straightforward and include;

  • Eating too much – some pets are fed on demand or the feeding guidelines on the food are not followed. If you are unsure how much to feed then call our Pet health Helpline on 03333 321 947 and our expert vet nurses will advise you.
  • Treats! We all love a treat and love to spoil our pets but they struggle to burn off these extra calories which turn into fat. Different family members may each be giving treats on a regular basis which soon adds up. Did you know that one biscuit can be equivalent to a person eating a burger?
  • Lifestyles e.g. not exercising enough – some dogs are not walked at all. Indoor cats can be prone to weight gain too due to the lack of exercise.
  • Breed, age and sex can increase the risk – neutering is usually carried out around 6 - 9 months which is the same time as a natural decrease in growth and energy. On the opposite end of the scale senior pets become less active; if their food is not adjusted it’s no surprise that they start to pile on the pounds. 

How can I check if my pet is overweight?

To check to see if your pet is overweight, follow these simple steps below;

  1. Have a feel – Place your flat hands over their shoulder blades and run your hands lightly along your pets back. You should be able to feel the outline of their ribs without too much fat covering them.
  2. Look from above – The curve of their waist behind their ribs should be visible. If you can see their ribs, pelvic bone and spine too much then they could be underweight.
  3. From the side, their waist should follow a clear line upwards behind their ribs, and should not be sagging underneath.
  4. Weigh – are the scales creeping up? Monitor your pet’s weight by weighing regularly.

How is obesity treated?

  • Prevention is better than the cure; however, treatment is a combination of exercise and correct diet.
  • Speak with your vet to rule out any medical conditions.
  • Creating a feeding plan with your vet and regular weight checks. Some vets run free of charge weight clinics and can be carried out by the veterinary nurse; this can be very helpful and supportive while trying to get your pet’s weight back on track.
  • Special calorie-controlled food from your vets is usually the most effective way to help them lose weight.
  • Walking is a key element of most canine weight loss regimens and should be increased gradually once given the all clear from your vet. Little and often is the best way to start and increasing play time at home can help, especially for indoor cats.
  • Cut out the treats and table scraps. If you need to use treats for training then make sure it’s incorporated into the daily portion. If you are feeding a dry food, weigh out the daily amount and set aside a few bits of kibble to use as treats. Low calorie foods such as carrots & apples can be used but not too many.

Once your pet’s ideal body weight has been achieved, establishing a life-time weight maintenance program and regular weigh ins with your vet will prevent all your hard work from going to waste.

If you need any further advice about pet obesity then please call our Pet Health Helpline on 03333 321 947 and our expert vet nurses will advise you on what to do next.