Obesity in Dogs & Cats

Obesity is the most common nutritional disease in dogs. It occurs less commonly in cats, but is still considered a major health concern none-the-less. Obesity is defined as an excess quantity of body fat. Dogs & Cats weighing in excess of 15% of their ideal body weight are considered to be obese.

Obesity IS a DISEASE. It is generally caused by over-feeding, feeding too many table scraps and tid-bits and feeding a nutritionally un-balanced or high fat diet. Team this with lack of physical activity and exercise, and our Pets’ weight can rapidly increase. Just like us, it is easy to put it on, but harder and a long process to get it off!

Certain breeds of dogs are more prone to obesity, which may suggest a genetic pre-disposition to the disease. Breeds such as Daschunds, Beagles, Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Cavaliers and Cocker Spaniels are all examples of breeds that are more susceptible to the disease, but obesity is certainly not limited to these breeds. As far as cats are concerned, it seems that all breeds have the potential to become obese, due to ad-lib feeding, hunting for mice and birds, and general inactivity. It has been suggested however, that cats are less prone to obesity due to their ability to more easily regulate their own energy intake (ie; they only eat what their body requires).

Obesity can be attributed to numerous other diseases in our pets. For example, Diabetes, Liver Disease, Heart Disease, exacerbates arthritic conditions, pre-disposes pets to pancreatitis, respiratory problems, skin problems, and numerous other complaints. All of these diseases, on top of being obese leads to a decreased quality of life for our pets, and unfortunately a decreased life expectancy.

Obesity is generally identified by visual analysis and palpation. An obese animal will have no visible waist, and you will not be able to easily feel their ribs. Also, excess fatty deposits will be clearly visible in areas such as the base of the tail and the chest. We also have available a body scoring system (picture chart) that rates your pets’ body score from 1 – 5. A score of 1 is considered underweight, 3 is ideal weight & 5 is obese. This system is a simple & user friendly application.

Once obesity has been identified in your pet, we are able to put together a weight loss program to achieve an initial 15% weight reduction. This means that we will aim to achieve a weight loss of 1 – 2% of initial body weight per week. In our pets, rapid weight loss can be just as detrimental to their health as being obese, so slow and steady is the key. Generally speaking, a 15% weight reduction is achieved (depending on breed, size, age and weight) between 4 – 12 weeks. After this, your pets body score is re-assessed to see if we need to initiate a further weight reduction program, a maintenance program, or if their ideal weight has been achieved.

Feeding & Exercise

There are a number of complete diets available for your pet that are calorie controlled to help your pet achieve weight loss. These foods are nutritionally balanced, so no other food needs to be fed. There are even calorie controlled treats available to feed so that you do not feel like you are depriving your pet!

In addition to changing their diet, it is a good idea to introduce a regular exercise regime. If your pet hasn’t been exercised regularly, it is advisable to start off with short walks, gradually increasing their duration and distance. Exercising Cats can be as simple as introducing "Play Time" a couple of times a day, or if your cat is willing, you can purchase a harness and walk them around your yard, & even down the street.

As with any Disease, prevention is always better than cure. It is a good idea to put your pet onto a complete, nutritionally balanced premium food right from the start. These foods are designed to maintain optimum health and body condition in our pets. If your pet is prone to becoming a little bit "podgy" around the middle, these diets offer a "Light" alternative which your pet can be maintained on for life.