Did you know that more than half the pets in the U.S. are overweight or obese? According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention’s 2018 survey, an estimated 60% of cats and 56% of dogs were too heavy. With such a hefty portion of our pet population tipping the scales much higher than their ideal body weight, it’s time to get back in shape. 

Why is weight management important for my pet?

While begging puppy eyes and tiny mews asking for treats are often so adorable, resist those constant demands for high calorie, fat-laden treats. Pets who are too heavy are prone to developing an impressive array of life-threatening health conditions. For example, obese cats and diabetes often go hand-in-hand, while dogs can suffer from a decreased lifespan with only a slight weight increase. In addition, your pet’s excess weight can be a significant risk factor in the development of the following conditions:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Intervertebral disc disease
  • Cranial cruciate ligament injuries
  • Heart disease
  • Respiratory difficulties
  • Exercise intolerance
  • High blood pressure
  • Liver disease
  • Heat intolerance
  • Surgical and anesthetic complications
  • Compromised immune function
  • Malignant tumors and certain cancers

Extra pounds seem to slowly creep up, and pet owners may take a while to realize their furry pals are more chubby than fluffy. However, being obese for a mere 12 weeks can cause permanent negative health effects in your pet, and they may not return to normal, despite weight loss. 

How can I help my pet lose weight?

You must commit to a healthy diet and exercise plan, as you would for yourself. Follow these important tips to help your four-legged friend shed extra pounds:

  • Calculate your pet’s daily caloric requirement — Many pet owners have no clue how many calories their pet needs each day to maintain, lose, or gain weight. Use The Ohio State University’s body condition score chart and calorie calculator to help determine how many calories your pet should eat each day to lose weight.
  • Measure your pet’s food — Filling your pet’s bowl whenever they seem hungry is a surefire way to help pack on the pounds. Instead, measure your pet’s daily caloric intake into two or three separate meals, portioning it out with a proper measuring cup.
  • Increase your pet’s activity — If exercising your pooch when you come home tired from work is hard, hire a dog walker during the day. Cats exercise best in short spurts, which is perfect for a game with a feather wand or fishing pole toy during commercial breaks. Whether your pet enjoys playing, hiking, running, or pouncing, increase the activity time each day.
  • Show your pet you love them without food — As a society, we often demonstrate our love through food, including to our pets. Rather than tossing them a treat, engage in a grooming session, massage, or playtime. 

With dedication and perseverance, you can help your furry pal rediscover their waistline, achieve their ideal body weight, and enjoy the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. 

What if my pet is struggling to lose weight?

Despite your best-laid diet and exercise plans for your furry pal, you may find the number on the scale failing to move. Like people, pets can suffer from metabolic conditions that may make losing weight difficult. If you’ve been cutting your pet’s calories and increasing their activity but seeing no change, schedule a thorough physical exam with your Johnson County Animal Clinic veterinarian. During the appointment, we will calculate the correct number of calories your pet should be eating for healthy weight loss. We may recommend blood work to check for organ dysfunction, or X-rays to spot painful arthritis that make activity difficult. Your pet’s diagnostic testing and inability to lose weight may lead to a hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease diagnosis, diseases notorious for causing pets to gain weight. Some prescription medications may also cause weight gain, so always discuss your pet’s diet and exercise plan with our team before slashing calories. 

Keep in mind that sudden, substantial calorie reduction can lead to serious health effects. Cats in particular can suffer from a liver condition caused by eating too little. A restricted diet with too few essential vitamins and minerals also can cause a host of health problems, so always consult our veterinarian for dietary advice.

Is your furry pal more fat than fluff? We can help your pet find their waistline again with a customized diet and exercise plan—contact your Johnson County Animal Clinic team for assistance.