It isn’t just for humans anymore. The obesity epidemic is growing in our pet’s as well. In this blog entry, Dr. Savier, addresses how to identify the problem, the conversation to have with your vet, and the steps to take to a healthier lifestyle for your pet.
Obesity – A pet is considered obese when it weighs 20% or above their ideal body weight.
Prevalence – 20-30% of dogs are obese. Of these 40-50% are older than five years of age.
Risks – Even being a moderately overweight dog puts your pup at increased risk for diabetes, cancers (all types), heart disease, hypertension, arthritis, urinary bladder stones, reduced heat tolerance, and anesthetic complications. Overweight dogs typically die two years earlier than their lean counterpart.
How do I know?
If you are not sure if your pet is overweight or obese – talk to your veterinarian. I like to bring this up at annual appoints, so there is time to discuss strategies about weight loss. During sick visits, I may mention the problem, but will tackle that when your pet is feeling well. The scoring chart below will give you a good idea if there is a significant problem.
What do we do?
The first step is to admit there is a problem and the next is to examine why your pup is overweight or obese. In most cases, I see an abundance of food and treats combined with a sedentary lifestyle as the main culprits. There are some conditions that cause pets to put on weight (chronic steroid use, Cushings disease, and Thyroid issues to name a few), so if a change to diet fails, we will consider lab testing to see if there is a medical problem.
“But the back of the bag said…” is commonly what I hear. Let me tell you something – the back of the bag isn’t right and even if it was, you have to be measuring (and not with a BIG GULP cup – as I once asked to see the size of the cup an owner was using to measure) the food into the bowl, taking into account additional treats or table scraps, exercise, the age of your pet and concurrent medical conditions (even spay/neuter status). Even long lasting toys like busy bones and dental chews need to be accounted for in the total amount of calories.
Walking dogs does not burn a lot of calories and if it did, I would walk everyday versus doing even one minute of a cardio workout! Dogs need rigorous exercise to maintain a lean body weight.
If you determine that your dog is obese, discuss a treatment plan with your veterinarian. We want your pet to lose the weight, but we want it done safely. Some pets are so overweight that traditional exercise is not safe – as it may cause trouble breathing and hyperthermia. We also do not want to restrict calorie intake so much that your pet becomes ill. Weight loss is a problem – just like a broken leg – and we will develop a treatment plan that fits you and your pet best!
Here’s to Your Pet’s Health – Dr. Eileen