Obesity is estimated to affect more than half of the population of dogs and cats in the United States. Pets that are overweight have a significantly shortened lifespan. Obesity is linked to an increased risk of many diseases and generally causes significant stress on the pet’s body. It is important to formulate an appropriate weight loss plan with your veterinarian to effectively help your pet achieve an ideal body weight.

Obesity is defined as an excess accumulation of body fat. Pets are considered overweight if their body weight is above 10 – 20% of their ideal weight. They are considered obese if their body weight exceeds 20% of their ideal body weight. Pets body conditions are scored based on a point system ranging from 1 (severely underweight) to 5 (severely obese), while 3 is considered ideal. The point system can also range from 1 to 9, with 4 to 5 being considered ideal.

Obesity has been proven to shorten a pet’s life by up to two years. Pets have a relatively short lifespan as is, but when you add the stress of excess body weight and the diseases that come along with it, pet’s do not have a the quality or longevity that should be expected out of their lifespan.

Pet’s that are overweight and obese are likely to be less energetic and reluctant to exercise. Obesity can cause diabetes mellitus, osteoarthristis, joint injuries (such as cranial cruciate tears), cancer, chronic kidney disease, urinary bladder stones, hypertension, heart disease, pancreatitis, etc. Obesity may also be an idicator that a pet is struggling with an underlying disease such as hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease. It has become routine to view our obese pet’s as “normal” and even “acceptable,” especially before life threatening problems arise from it, but this is when it is most important to take action.

Pet’s should only lose 1 – 2% of their body weight per week. Too often, a well intentioned owner will only reduce the volume of food and cause malnutrition overtime. Malnutrition can occur in pets that appear overweight and obese, not only pet’s that appear grossly underweight.

Your attending veterinarian can help you assess your pet’s current body condition and formulate an appropriate weight loss program. An appropriate weight loss program will include a recommended diet, specific portion, meal frequency, and timeline. Treats should only make up 10% of a pet’s diet. Regular weigh-ins are essential to keep you and your pet accountable, and to be sure that weight loss is occurring at a healthy rate. Once the pet’s goal weight has been achieved, it does not stop there. It is important to keep working to maintain their ideal weight and keep regular wellness visits with your veterinarian because an estimated 40% of pet’s gain the weight back soon after.

Obesity is the most common, preventable disease in pets that has become an epidemic in the United States. Obese pets should not be normalized for the sake of their health and quality of life. It is never too late to help your pet live a more comfortable life by providing them a healthier lifestyle. Take the first step by joining Elko Veterinary Clinic’s 16-week Healthy Weight Challenge beginning April 1st.

Please call Elko Veterinary Clinic at 775-738-6116 to enter for a fresh start for you and your pet.