Obesity is a serious nutritional disease which is defined by an excess of body fat. Obesity can result in serious adverse health effects and can even reduce a pet’s lifespan – even if the pet is only moderately obese. Multiple areas of the body are affected by excess body fat, including the bones and joints, the digestive organs, heart, and lungs
Obesity is common in pets of all ages, but it usually occurs in middle-aged pets, and generally in those that are between the ages of 5 and 10. Spayed/Neutered and indoor pets also tend to have a higher risk of becoming obese.
Although there are many factors/diseases that can contribute to obesity, the most common cause is the imbalance between the pets caloric intake and exercise. Obesity becomes more common in old age because of the normal decrease in a pet’s ability to exercise. Unhealthy eating habits, such as high-calorie foods, an alternating diet, and frequent treats can greatly contribute to this condition.
The most common diseases that cause obesity :
- Hypothyroidism (Dogs)
- Hyperadrenocorticism – (Cushings Disease)
Obesity is diagnosed primarily by measuring the dog’s body weight or by scoring its body condition, which involves assessing his/her body composition. A veterinarian will do this by examining the pet, palpating its ribs, lumbar area, tail, and head. The results are then compared to the breed standard.
If a pet is obese, it will have an excess body weight of approximately 10 to 15 percent. In the nine-point scoring system, dogs which have a body condition score greater than seven are considered to be obese.
Once a pet has been diagnosed as Obese, it is very important to find the cause. To determine the cause of obesity it is crucial to discuss the pet’s diet and exercise with a veterinarian and to perform routine blood and urine testing to rule out underlying disease.
Treatment for obesity will vary based on the cause. Diseases that cause obesity may require medical management paired with a prescription diet. Treatment for obesity caused by overfeeding requires reducing caloric intake and increasing the pet’s time spent exercising. There is no “one size fits all” diet for weight loss as each pet has a different lifestyle, activity level, and biological makeup.
Increasing your dog’s physical activity level is vital for successful treatment. The most common suggestions for dogs are leash walking for at least 15 minutes, twice a day, and playing games such as fetch; for cats it is playing with a string, laser pointer, or similar cat toy for at least 15 minutes twice a day.
Living and Management
Treatment for obesity includes regular communication with a veterinarian about the weight reduction program, monthly monitoring of your dog’s weight, and establishing a life-time weight maintenance program once your dog’s ideal body condition score has been achieved. With a firm commitment to your dog’s health and weight, you will feel confident that your dog is eating healthy and feeling its best.
If you have questions regarding obesity and our weight loss program please reach out to a member of our medical team! You can reach us via phone, text, email, or on our website!