Identifying and Combating Pet Obesity

In North America, obesity is the most common preventable disease in dogs and cats. Approximately 25-30% of the general dog and cat population is obese, with 40-45% of pets aged 5-11 years old weighing in higher than normal.

What is Obesity?

Obesity is an accumulation of excess body fat. Extra Body weight and extra body fat tend to go hand in hand, so most overweight pets will have excess body fat.

Body weight is easy to measure when assessing if a pet is overweight or obese- easier than trying to measure body fat. The pet version of BMI is called BCS (Body Condition Score) which is a quantitative yet subjective method for evaluating body fat. It may seem more complicated than the human scale because although people come in lots of different shapes and sizes, the pet world has a bigger variety of both.

Photo Provided by AAHA

Food Contribution

Weight and obesity problems can often be successfully managed through changes in food or a nutrition plan.

Do you know how much your pet should weigh to be healthier, happier, and more active? Be sure to talk with your veterinarian, because feeding to your pet’s ideal weight rather than his or her current weight can make a big difference in weight loss success. For weight loss to occur, pets must consume 30% or fewer calories than the amount required to maintain their ideal body weight. Following your veterinarian feeding plan, based on accurate estimate of ideal body weight, will ensure you don’t overfeed.

Food amount advised on the back of pet food bags are often not accounting for a spayed or neutered pet. If spayed or neutered, reduce the serving size by 25% to account for the spayed or neutered status of your pet. Treats should only be accounting for, at most, 10% of your pet’s caloric intake.

Low Calorie Treat Options

  • Raw Green Beans
  • Raw Carrots
  • No Butter, No Salt- Popcorn
Diagram provided by Hills Pet Nutrition

Obesity Risks

Excess fat negatively impacts a pet’s health and longevity. Previously, fat was considered to be a relatively inert tissue, simply storing excess energy calories and adding to body mass. Scientific evidence now reveals that fat tissue is biologically active; it secretes inflammatory hormones and creates oxidative stress on the body’s tissues, both of which can contribute to disease. Thinking of obesity as a chronic, low-level inflammatory condition is a new paradigm.

Obese dogs and cats develop an increased risk for:

  • Cancers of all types, diabetes mellitus, heart disease, and hypertension
  • Osteoarthritis and a faster degeneration of affected joints
  • Urinary bladder stones
  • Anesthetic complications
  • Heat intolerance