Pet Obesity A LITTLE EXTRA WEIGHT
IS A BIG PROBLEM.
By Nicole McDonagh, DVM Town Center Animal Hospital
Over the past 5 years it has been estimated that 24% to 35% of the pet population in the United States seen by veterinarians is overweight or obese.
rimary obesity is due to increased caloric intake or over feeding more than the body uses therefore increasing body fat. A common justification for over feeding is for one’s pet to have a higher quality of life, but in reality overweight and obese pets commonly have primary and secondary health issues that can lead to a decreased life span. Studies have shown that lean or optimal weight pets may live on average 1 to 2 years longer than overweight pets.
SECONDARY NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF OBESITY
Obesity affects every part of the body and thus healthy body function. Grossly obese pets have increased frequency of traumatic and degenerative bone disorders. Overweight puppies are more likely to develop clinical signs of orthopedic disease during development and older pets having arthritis. Overweight pets have reduced activity, decreased heat tolerance, predisposing to heat stroke during hotter climates, and also can show visible signs of aging earlier than ideal weight animals. Other health problems commonly noted include congestive heart failure, respiratory issues, Diabetes Mellitus, and increased anesthetic risk during 18
elective or necessary surgical procedures. Overweight cats in particular that do not eat can be predisposed to liver disease known as hepatic lipidosis leading to liver failure.
BODY CONDITION SCORING – NOT JUST THE WEIGHT
Body weight alone does not indicate whether a pet’s weight is appropriate. Body condition scoring (BCS) is a useful tool that estimates an animal’s body fat content, taking into account the breed and frame size independent of body weight such as evaluating the ribs, vertebrae, waist, and hips. Clinicians frequently use the 5 or 9-point system (1/9 emaciated, 9/9 grossly obese). Ideal BCS is a 4 to 5/9 having ribs easily palpable, with minimal fat covering. The waist is easily observed behind ribs and when viewed from above, and an abdominal tuck is apparent when viewed from the side.
If your pet has a primary overweight problem not secondary to underlying disease/ metabolic condition your primary veterinarian will formulate a specific weight loss program. Components to a healthy weight loss program include changes in diet, using a feeding schedule, decreasing/eliminating treats, and routine exercise. Eliminating
Las Vegas Pet Scene Magazine • July/August 2016
treats does not affect daily nutrition and decreases negative effects such as vomiting and diarrhea. Substituting in vegetables such at carrots, green beans, broccoli or squash are acceptable due to lower calorie content, and higher water and fiber content for digestion. Prescription diets are also available that can be prescribed by your veterinarian after your pet has had a full physical evaluation. Using a routine schedule such as feeding twice a day compared to leaving food out will allow the amount of food one’s pet is eating to be accurately monitored, and also allows for a routine bathroom schedule. Exercise such as daily walks and interactive toys at home can help eliminate extra weight. Pets should be started with frequent short 5-10 minute walks increasing the length of the walk/jog over time if not use to exercising. Swimming is also beneficial allowing use of all the muscles without the increased weight placing more pressure on the joints. Weight management is an important factor to your pet’s health and quality of life. Leaner pets are more active, play more and have less risk to the many secondary health issues that come with being overweight. Appropriate diet and weight management is key to ensuring that your pets have a prolonged happier and healthier life.