What is Obesity?
Obesity is the most common nutritional disease in cats and dogs. It is an excess of fatty tissue deposited in the body that contributes to, or is associated with many health problems. Studies estimate that at least 45-50% of our dogs and 50-60% of pet cats are overweight.
Most always obesity is caused by the consumption of calories in excess of need (in other words – too much food and too little exercise). There are certain endocrine (glandular) diseases, such as hypothyroidism, which can cause obesity in cats and dogs, but they are rare. By far, the most common causes for obesity are over feeding and inadequate exercise.
Pets are like people, we love to eat even when we are not hungry, and we want something to eat or share when we see others eating. Think of us like human toddlers when giving us snacks or treats between meals.
Hidden Dangers of Obesity:
Overweight pets generally have many more physical ailments and a shorter lifespan compared to those of normal lean body weight. Obesity reduces your pet’s enjoyment of life and their owner’s enjoyment of their pet.
Obesity can either cause or worsen:
1. Musculo-skeletal problems seen as difficulty with locomotion, including arthritis, hip dysplasia, increased risk of strains or sprains, spinal disc problems, and ligament rupture.
2. Lung disease or in small breeds of dogs collapsing trachea syndrome.
3. Heart disease (74% increase in occurrence.)
4. Liver disease or in cats hepatic lipidosis (fat deposited inside the liver tissue).
5. Diabetes – particularly sugar diabetes.
6. Gastrointestinal problems including constipation or diarrhea, excessive gas, and pancreatitis.
7. Increased surgical and anesthetic risks.
8. Heat intolerance predisposing them to heat stroke.
9. Skin disease (40% increase in occurrence.)
10. 50% increase in the incidence of cancer.
11. Mental irritability (related to discomfort.)
12. Lowered resistance to infectious diseases.
13. Interruption of sleep patterns.
14. Decreased exercise tolerance and increased fatigue (part of the vicious cycle that worsens the obesity problem).
Dietary Management of Obesity:
Prescription dietary food is a low calorie, high fiber diet, formulated to reduce total caloric intake while providing all the nutrients necessary for health maintenance, with added bulk to help them feel full. Prescription food is different from all non-dietary pet foods in purpose, color, texture, and nutrient content. When used correctly, it forces your pet to use their own excess body fat to meet some of their daily energy needs.
Successful weight reduction is rarely accomplished if your pet is kept on their regular food. Decreasing the amount of regular pet food fed down to the degree necessary to produce adequate weight loss may result in detrimental nutritional deficiencies, and will result in more begging and other behavioral problems. Many of the current popular advertised foods are very rich and have a high caloric density per cup of food, making weight loss very difficult.
If you have questions about foods, nutrition, or which diet could best help your pet with weight loss, just give my mom a call and she will be happy to answer your questions.
Home Management of Obesity:
At home management of the overweight pet must carefully include ALL of the following, after consulting with your veterinarian:
1. Hold a family conference – emphasize the importance of complete cooperation by all people involved with feeding your pet. Anything short of your total commitment results in frustration, wasted time, effort, and money (your pet is the one that loses!)
2. Decrease your pet’s caloric intake by feeding only the recommended dietary food. Divide the total amount to be fed per day into 3-4 small meals.
3. Strictly keep your pet out of any room where and when food is being prepared and eaten by the family. Feeding your pet before the family eats will help reduce begging behavior.
4. Do not feed your obese pet with your other pets. Calorie control works better when fed separately.
5. Do not feed anything other than the type and amount of food recommended. It is much more humane to withhold excess calories from your pet than it is to allow them to suffer the effects and consequences of obesity.
6. Exercise your pet for at least 30 minutes every day. Go for a short walk!
7. Keep an accurate weekly record of your pet’s weight. Bring this record to all veterinary visits.
Wild canines and felines live a very different life style than we do as household pets. They expend a tremendous amount of time and energy in hunting for and catching their dinner. As pets, we lounge around the house all day and get a free dinner for our efforts!
Moderate daily exercise is best for your pet – spend a few minutes playing with us and then let’s go for a 20-30 minute walk. You and your pet will both benefit from the exercise and will enjoy each other’s company!
Inadequate exercise is one of the major problem components of the obesity cycle. Start slowly and gradually increase the amount of time, increase the distance, and increase your walking pace every few days until you are up to a brisk walk.
We, pets, are expert trainers when it comes to teaching our humans what we want and how to get it!! All we need to do is give you that special look…..As my Dad says I am a 100# dog at heart that my mom keeps in 6.5# body and I assure you that spending time in interactive play with my people or going out for a walk is way more important to me than any biscuit!! So grab my leash and let’s go for a walk.
To a lean healthy life,