The statistics say that 30 to 50 percent of our pets are overweight, with 35% being obese – and most of us owners aren’t even aware of it!  That’s a very high incidence.   Part of preventative health care includes maintaining a healthy weight.

Take an Obesity Quiz to see how much you know about obesity, the risks and factors involved.

There is sound and irrefutable evidence that obesity has devastating effects both on longevity and on the quality of life.  As an example; in humans, mortality at any age is higher in people who overweight. This is primarily due to increased heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and digestive diseases.


Increased incidence of disease in the obese pet is equally alarming:

  • Heart and Circulatory disease increase up to 75 percent
  • Reproductive disorders increase up to 65 percent
  • Musculoskeletal diseases increase up to 54 percent (eg. ruptured ligaments, arthritis)
  • Cancers up to 50 percent increase.
  • Skin conditions up to 40 percent increase.

These are very worrying statistics.

What is Obesity?

Obesity is medically defined as a 15 percent or greater increase in optimal body weight – so what’s the ideal weight?  Most pets will reach their ideal weight within one year of maturity.  The ideal weight for your particular dog can be found from charts.  With few exceptions, the ideal weight for the average healthy adult domestic cat is between 3.5 and 4.5 kilograms (8 to10 lbs.)

A fairly simple, although subjective, test for the degree of obesity is to make a judgment of the amount of adipose (fatty) tissue overlying the rib cage and along the abdomen.  Here’s how to do it.  The animal is too thin if the ribs are easily seen.  The animal is normal if the ribs are easily felt with light pressure, without any appreciable layer of fat.  The animal is obese if the ribs cannot easily be felt.  We should also appreciate that most breeds should have an hourglass or waist line when viewed from above.  Other signs of obesity include a pendulous or protruding abdomen, enlarged fatty areas over the hips and around the tail, and a waddling sluggish walk or gait.

Our concern with obesity isn’t merely for cosmetic vanity, but is based on sound evidence as to its devastating effects on longevity and quality of life.

What Causes Obesity?

In a word … calories!  Obesity is nearly always caused by one simple fact – overeating.  Too much food and too little exercise.

Metabolic, “hormonal” or “glandular” problems are extremely rare and can often be corrected by medical means in addition to diet control.  There is an old adage “fatness runs in the family” – the truth is that overeating runs in the family, and nobody runs!

We are well aware that some breeds are more prone to obesity than others, for example, Beagles, Dachshunds, Labs and Goldens tend to lay it on with ease, but this should prompt us to be even more vigilant with these particular breeds of pet.  The true tragedy is that the obese pet is the helpless victim of a compulsive owner.  A pet simply cannot get fat on its own. Many people use food as a reward. A treat is offered and the animal is rewarded for eating it by being petted or some such thing. The animal then associates food with affection and constantly seeks more of each. The owner then continues to feed the animal in the belief that the actual feeding pleases the animal and the cycle continues.

Let’s examine what we can do about it.


Controlling the Problem

Admitting to yourself that your pet is obese is the first step.  Accepting responsibility for the condition is the next.  Then, and only then will you be in the frame of mind to succeed in your goal of weight loss.

Every program of weight reduction should be tailored to the individual pet after consultation with your own veterinarian.  It is also absolutely vital that you solicit and acquire absolute cooperation from every member of the family – lack of total dedication and commitment will only bring frustration and disappointment.

The following guidelines will be something like your own veterinarian might recommend.

  • Eliminate ALL extra sources of food, table scraps, treats, snacks from neighbors etc. In fact, throw out all pet treats! (Or donate them to the animal shelter.)
  • Consider the use of specially formulated prescription reducing diets.  These diets are high in fibre and lower in calories, but otherwise completely balanced so are very filling.  There is also Metabolic to help increase a pet’s metabolism.
  • Make sure the diet you are using is top quality and suited to your pet and then consider reducing total consumption by up to 20 percent.  Feed the remaining 80 percent in three or four divided meals during the day. This method works on some dogs and tends to eliminate begging.
  • Make sure ample fresh water is available at all times.
  • Weigh your pet weekly – this will keep you motivated to keep thinking positively.
  • Do multiple short periods of exercise instead of one long period.  Once your pet’s exercise tolerance increases, you can decrease the frequency as you increase the length of exercise time per outing.

To help you realize the ease with which obesity can creep up on us, consider this:

A dog or cat that consumes only one percent more calories than needed, on a daily basis, will be 25 percent overweight by middle age.

If your pet is overweight or you aren’t sure contact us, so together we can start to treat this disease right away.

For more information on weight and exercise ideas for your pet(s) see our additional blog posts:

Body Fat Index – what does that mean?

Diet is Only Half the Battle

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  1. The Human Side Of Obesity Management | Obesity Undone is Fat Then Fit Now --- Weight loss is a side effect of fitness; Fitness is not the end result of weight loss!
  2. Biggest Losers…& the Winners are… | Albert North Vet Clinic

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