Companion Animal Obesity

What is obesity?

Obesity is an accumulation of excessive amounts of body fat to a point where your pet’s body-weight exceeds the optimum for his or her body size by at least 15%. Obese pets do not live as long as their non-obese counter-parts and are at increased risk of a number of health conditions, including: diabetes mellitus, orthopaedic problems, cardio-respiratory disease, heat intolerance, and some cancers.

Why do pets become obese?

Obesity results when your dog or cat consumes more calories than they expend. Certain breeds of dogs and cats have a recognized genetic propensity for becoming obese. Also, there is evidence that spaying or neutering your pet increases their risk of becoming obese. Following alteration, your pet’s energy expenditure may be reduced by as much as a third. As a result, obesity occurs from failing to adjust your pet’s feeding regimen accordingly.

How do I know whether my pet is obese?

The first step in treating your pet for obesity is recognizing that there is a problem in the first place. Unfortunately, the media is rife with images of cats and dogs that are overweight or obese, making it difficult to determine what a healthy weight looks like. Methods for identifying obesity in pets include weighing and body condition scoring (BCS). BCS involves appraising your pet visually and by palpation and subjectively ranking your pet on a scale from one to nine, where one is very thin and nine is very obese.

How can I treat my pet’s obesity?

Targets for weight reduction are generally in the neighbourhood of 1% to 2% of body-weight per week. The primary treatment for obesity in companion animals is dietary modification. Experts recommend feeding a diet specifically formulated for weight loss. These diets are designed to reduce caloric intake and promote satiety. Combining dietary restriction with an exercise regime further promotes fat loss, while maintaining lean tissue mass. Additionally, lifestyle changes such as not feeding table scraps, feeding fewer treats and not making energy-dense, highly palatable foods available free-choice can play a vital role in your pet’s successful weight-loss program.

Your veterinarian can help you devise a weight-loss program for your pet and will help you to monitor the program to ensure that your pet stays on track. It is also important to continue to weigh your pet regularly once his/her ideal weight has been achieved to ensure that the weight that was lost is not regained.


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