Pet Obesity is a Year Round Concern for Pets

Dr. Gary Hoover is a veterinarian at Fairgrounds Animal Hospital.

October may be over, but concern for pet obesity isn’t over! Many pets are overweight or obese, which can cause some significant problems if not addressed.

How do I know if my pet is obese?

Typically, your veterinarian will look for three main physical characteristics to determine your pet’s body condition score (BCS). BCS is graded on a scale of 1-9, with 1 being severely underweight, 4-5 being ideal, and 8-9 being obese. The first thing to consider is fat deposits along the chest. When you feel along your pet’s chest, your fingers should bump along the ribs underneath the skin and a thin layer of fat. If you can’t feel your pet’s ribs, they likely are overweight. The next two characteristics go together, and they form your pet’s waist. Looking at your pet from above, the chest should be the widest point, and the body should narrow in front of the hips/hind legs. Similarly, from the side, your pet’s chest should be the deepest point, and the abdomen should tuck up in front of the hips.

What are some risks of obesity?

Many of the risks of obesity in our pets are similar to those in people. Arthritis and joint disease is the most common problem associated with obesity. Extra weight on your pet’s joints can worsen the disease already present in some breeds (such as German shepherds and their hips, dachshunds and their backs, pit bulls & Labradors and their knees). This is especially true if your pet has already had a joint-related health problem, such as a luxating patella (common in toy breeds like toy poodles, Yorkies, and Pomeranians) or torn cruciate ligament.

Another complication of obesity is diabetes. Many obese pets, like humans, become resistant to insulin, leading to diabetes. This is true for both dogs and cats. Cats, with proper insulin therapy and weight management, can actually be cured of diabetes in some cases (but not all). This is why it is important to start or continue a weight loss plan in a pet that develops an obesity-related problem. And remember – it is never too late to start!

If you are concerned about a weight-related problem with your pet, or have questions or concerns about your pet’s weight, feel free to consult with your veterinarian. Your vet may make recommendations or changes to diet and exercise plans as appropriate for your pet. Remember, just as with people, weight loss is a “marathon and not a sprint” and will take time. However, the long-term benefits are worth the wait and will leave you with a happier, healthier pet!

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posted in:  Pet Obesity