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Is My Dog or Cat Overweight? Whats The Big Deal?

Nearly 100 million pets in the U.S. are overweight or obese, making weight the leading health threat to our companion animals today.  According the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention 56% of dogs and 60% of cats were classified as clinically overweight (body condition score (BCS) 6-7) or obese (BCS 8-9) by their veterinary healthcare professional. That equals an estimated 50.2 million dogs and 56.5 million cats were too heavy in 2017.

Obesity Shortens Lives: Just as in humans, excessive fat in pets increases the risk of often-preventable health conditions.

consequenses of excess pet weight

Most Common Obesity-Related Conditions in Dogs:

  1. Arthritis
  2. Bladder/Urinary Tract Disease
  3. Liver Disease
  4. Low Thyroid Hormone Production
  5. Torn Knee Ligaments
  6. Diabetes
  7. Diseased Disc in the Spine
  8. Chronic Kidney Disease
  9. Heart Failure
  10. High Blood Pressure

Most Common Obesity-Related Conditions in Cats:

  1. Bladder/Urinary Tract Disease
  2. Chronic Kidney Disease
  3. Diabetes
  4. Asthma
  5. Liver Disease
  6. Arthritis
  7. High Blood Pressure
  8. Heart Failure
  9. Gall Bladder Disorder
  10. Immobility of Spine

Additionally, pet obesity has been linked with chronic inflammation and many forms of cancer. Obesity-related medical conditions decrease quality of life and may reduce life expectancy as much as two years.  Veterinary behaviorist Karen Overall, DVM suggests that some obese dogs and cats are actually clinically depressed. Their daily activity is often limited to taking brief jaunts in the yard or to the litter box for bathroom breaks, eating, sleeping, and eating some more.

Body condition score chart for catsBody condition score chart for dogs

Why are so many pets overweight? 

  • Lack of awareness: Pet parents don’t always recognize excessive weight in their pets. As a result, action steps to control portions and reduce pet weight may be delayed.
  • Lack of compliance: It is often difficult for pet parents to comply with portion control or weight maintenance programs, particularly in multi-pet homes.
  • Genetic components: Susceptibilities within certain breeds, single-gene mutations, and neuroendocrine pathways in terms of responses to food.
  • Overfeeding: unmeasured feeding, free feeding, and food stealing.  Feeding of high-calorie foods/treats and table scraps.
  • Feeding for emotional reasons:  Food is often associated with love, and because we love our furry family members, we want to show them that love by giving them extra food, treats, and sometimes food intended for human consumption, which is generally higher in calories and fat than pet food.
  • Lack of adequate exercise: As we lead busier lives than ever before, many pet owners hope a run in the yard for Fido is enough exercise to keep him healthy. For most dogs, this isn’t adequate. Dogs require our participation and interaction. Some dogs love to swim, others prefer to fetch, and some breeds, especially herding breeds, do best with a physical job. For many dogs, however, a simple daily walk is all that is required for them to stay at their ideal body weight.
  • Lack of pet owner knowledge or understanding: To complicate the pet obesity problem, many pet owners don’t know their pets are overweight. The APOP survey also revealed a “fat pet gap,” in which 90 percent of owners of overweight cats and 95 percent of owners of overweight dogs incorrectly identified their pets as falling within the normal weight range.
  • Early spay and neuter: While experts agree that early spay or neuter is good for population control and for the long-term health of pets, science is demonstrating that the hormone changes associated with early spay and neuter lead to decreased caloric requirements. Because of slower metabolic rates, animals who are spayed and neutered require less food to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Lack of exercise: Exercising a cat isn’t quite as simple. The experts agree that cats are healthiest and safest indoors, but an indoor-only kitty can become a lazy kitty, which can lead to weight gain. One way to exercise your indoor cat is to hide a small percentage of her food in a food puzzle or food-dispensing toy. Her innate prey drive will be activated as she “hunts” for her food, forcing her to be more active.  Play is important for cats, too. Use toys that require your cat to chase and jump.

Financial Costs of Obesity

Owners spent over 62 million dollars in 2017 on veterinary obesity related claims according to Nationwide Pet Insurance.

Controlling and Preventing Obesity:

• Schedule annual pet wellness exams with veterinarians to assess overall health, monitor weight, and establish optimal dietary programs to maintain or reduce weight.
• Begin healthy weight maintenance at spay/neuter.
• Maintain a consistent diet by controlling the amount of food given to each pet. Restrict calories (portion control) as part of the veterinarian-prescribed feeding protocol.
• Avoid feeding table scraps and regulate treats given.
• Establish a regular and fun exercise routine.
• Replace food treats with more interactive activities, such as extra play time or holding and petting.

People don’t pack on the pounds overnight, and the same is true for our pets. Because weight gain is gradual, and we see our pets every day, it might sometimes be difficult to notice when a pet has become overweight. And for cats and small dogs especially, a few pounds can make a big difference.

If your pet is obese and you would like to discuss some health related issues or discuss nutritional counselling contact Meadowlands Veterinary Hospital at 201-646-2008 or visit us at http://www.meadowlandsvethospital.com





By |September 26th, 2018|
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