According to the Association for Pet Obesity prevention in 2017 approximately 60% of cats and 56% of dogs were overweight or obese. These numbers are staggering. Working in a Vet Clinic in the heart of winter we commonly hear “Oh, Fluffy has put on weight because it’s cold and snowy outside” The truth is those pets typically continue to gain weight no matter what season it is.
I like being honest with people, most of the time it it our fault that our pets are overweight. This coming from a person who had 2 out of 2 cats overweight just a few years ago, Kiwi, my little black cat is still slightly on the overweight side. But it’s hard, you get those adorable eyes staring at you and you just want to give them just a tiny little bite of what you are eating, they were such a good boy/girl they deserve that extra treat, but according to a lifetime study in dogs just being overweight can take 2 years off their life! Wouldn’t you want those extra 2 years with your best friend?
Now, there are some medical reasons why pets gain weight, if your middle aged or senior pet is gaining weight, losing energy, losing hair, or just not quite acting themselves you should bring them in for blood testing. Hypothyroid disease and Cushing’s Disease are two common diseases that can cause weight gain. With any kind of changes in weight it is always important to work closely with your vet to develop a plan to keep your pet as healthy as possible.
Calories, we all hate that term, I myself wish all the good tasting food was calorie free, unfortunately this is not the case. When you eat too little calories you lose weight, when you eat just the right amount you maintain your weight, and when you eat too many you gain weight. Now when you exercise you do burn calories, so the more you exercise the more calories you need to maintain your weight. It is our job as pet parents to control calorie intake. If you have questions on how many calories your pet should be given, talk to your vet, they can do an easy calculation to help you dial in the correct amount to feed.
Exercise. The more you exercise the more calories you burn. Now every living thing needs energy to live, just to keep your heart pumping, lungs breathing, and brain computing, but those extra calories go to helping the body move and do all those other things. Even “lazy” animals need exercise. Yes, that includes that lazy house cat, it’s probably even more important to try to get them up and moving because they are highly prone to obesity. Even just 30 minutes a day of play can help.
There are many health concerns with pets being overweight/obese. Obesity makes pets prone to inflammation in their bodies causing generalized discomfort. The extra weight puts strain on the joints and they tend to be much more prone to joint injury (think torn ACL), and they can develop arthritis at a much earlier age. The increased inflammation in the body tends to lead to a decreased immune system meaning they are more likely to come down with illnesses. Diabetes is another common problem, especially in overweight felines.
We all love our pets and we all want what’s best for them, but what we need to keep in mind it is absolutely possible to “kill them with kindness” They do not need your table scraps or extra dog biscuits. Overall animals get most excited about the act of receiving a treat, they DO NOT care about the size of the treat. Also try more scratches on the ears, verbal praise, and just being there for them. Qwerty gets spoiled with trips to the dog park, going for a walk, and frisbee time, this ends up being beneficial for both our health and strengthens our bond much more than sharing a bag of chips.