Pets are regarded as furry — or feathered or scaled — members of the family. We care for them, we love them, and we worry about their health.
Because pets can’t speak, it’s difficult for us to know exactly what’s going on with their health. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP)’s 2018 Pet Obesity Survey, approximately 56% of dogs and 60% of cats in the U.S. are overweight or obese. It’s a growing problem for even the most observant pet parents.
Overweight pets are at risk for a host of additional health concerns including arthritis and diabetes, so it’s essential to get your pet’s weight under control as soon as you realize there’s a problem. It can be tricky knowing exactly what to watch for when you see your pet every day, but thankfully there are some distinct obesity warning signs.
Signs your pet is overweight
In dogs and cats, you should be able to feel your pet’s ribs without much effort. If it’s difficult to feel them, they are likely concealed by a thick layer of fat, indicating your pet is overweight. If you can’t feel them at all, there’s an excellent chance your pet is obese.
Your pet should also have a defined waist. This can be tricky to determine in longer-haired breeds, but there should at the very least be a slight indentation between the hips and chest. Dogs’ chests should be wider than their abdomens.
Aside from visually inspecting your furry friend, other signs to watch for include moving slower than usual and panting while walking. If you’re unsure whether your pet is overweight, the best thing to do is schedule a checkup with your veterinarian to have him or her examined.
How pets become overweight
The leading cause of pet obesity is overfeeding. That isn’t surprising when you think about it: Every pet parent loves spoiling their cat or dog with treats. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with that, so long as treats are given in moderation.
Just like people, dietary changes or changes in activity levels directly impact pets’ weight. Metabolism also naturally slows as cats and dogs age. For dogs especially, periods of inactivity can lead to significant weight gain.
In some cases, a serious underlying condition is the culprit, such as hypothyroidism, Cushing’s Disease, or pancreatic cancer. Because these conditions can develop seemingly out of nowhere, it’s important to schedule a veterinarian exam right away if you have concerns about your pet’s weight or if he or she gains weight suddenly.
How to prevent pet obesity
To help manage your pet’s weight from the outset, portion food and offer it on a schedule. Many people believe that “free-feeding” their pet is a way to demonstrate how loved they are, but it creates unhealthy habits. It’s important to know how much your pet is eating and how often so you can monitor it.
In addition, regular exercise — even small amounts — goes a long way in weight management, particularly for dogs. Commit to going on short walks or tossing a ball every day to boost your pet’s metabolism. It’s good for their mental health, too (and yours!).
How to help pets lose weight
If your pet is already overweight, regular exercise and portion control will help get him or her to a healthy weight. Schedule a veterinarian appointment and talk with your vet about a potential diet plan or specialty pet food.
It’s also important that the whole family is on the same page. If anyone in the household is sneaking treats or extra food, that could completely undermine any progress your pet is making.
Consult your vet
If you have any concerns about your pet’s weight, schedule a vet appointment as soon as possible. It’s also important to maintain annual well-check visits to help you catch any potential issues early on, even if your pet seems perfectly healthy. Contact us to schedule your appointment today. We can’t wait to meet you and your pet!