Although it may seem like a few extra pounds is no big deal for our pets, being overweight is unfortunately a serious problem. And in fact, as many as 50% to 60% of cats and dogs in Canada may be overweight or obese.*
The reason this is concerning is because carrying extra weight can cause many health issues for both dogs and cats. Overweight pets are at increased risk of developing:
• Arthritis and other joint issues
• Decreased immune function
• Gastrointestinal issues
• Heart disease
• High blood pressure
• Kidney disease
• Liver disease
• Respiratory problems
• Skin issues
Even scarier, cats and dogs carrying extra weight may not live as long as those at a healthy weight.
The good news is that if your pet is at a healthy weight or gets back to an ideal BCS, you’ll be giving your pet the gift of a better quality of life, less risk for certain diseases, and quite possibly a better chance of living longer.
So how do I know if my pet is overweight or just right?
Take a moment to do this quick check:
• You should be able to easily feel your pet’s ribs if you run your fingers across your pet’s abdomen.
• From the side, you should also be able to see a “tuck-in” or upward slope from the belly toward your pet’s hind end.
• From the top view, your pet should have a visible waist behind the ribs.
• If you can see your pet’s ribs, though, then your pet may be too thin.
Body condition score (or BCS) is another way we determine your pet’s ideal size and shape. We assign a score of 1 to 9, with 1 being too thin and 9 being obese. The ideal weight we’re aiming for is in the middle, at a 4 or 5.
Check out these charts from the World Small Animal Veterinary Association that show ideal body condition for healthy dogs and cats. Ideal weight varies, even among similarly sized dogs or cats. When you bring your pet in to Westmount Animal Hospital for a visit, we’ll show you how to gauge your pet’s weight and BCS.
Could my pet just have an underactive thyroid or some other medical condition?
It is possible, which is why your Westmount veterinarian will check your pet to rule out any medical causes that could be contributing to weight gain. However, most pets who are overweight have simply been eating more calories than they’ve burned.
How can we help your pet lose weight or keep weight off?
After we confirm that your pet doesn’t have any underlying medical conditions, together we’ll come up with a weight management plan that includes practical and achievable nutrition and exercise goals for your pet. We can also give you advice on helping to keep your pet feeling full while shedding pounds.
If your pet is carrying extra weight, you’re not on your own. We’ll work with you to help get your pet trimmed down and healthier.
We’ll focus on creating specific steps to decrease your pet’s caloric intake and increase his or her energy expenditure through activity and exercise. This may mean:
• Switching your dog or cat to a weight loss diet that will provide your pet with complete and balanced nutrition but fewer calories.
• Reducing the number of treats your pet gets (while making sure your pet doesn’t feel deprived).
• Having regular weigh-ins to ensure that your pet is losing an appropriate amount of weight (we don’t want pets to lose weight too quickly).
• Making sure your pet is getting enough exercise, either through walks or playtime. Combined with a diet change, many dogs can start losing weight by walking twice a day for 10 to 20 minutes, and cats can successfully shed pounds by playing actively for 5 or 10 minutes two or three times a day. Of course, every pet is unique, and we’ll give you personalized recommendations just for your pet.
When your pet comes into Westmount for a check-in, we’ll make sure your pet is staying on track and help keep you motivated. Together, we can get your pet back on track.
Call or schedule an appointment today to start your pet on a healthier path!
*According to an estimate from Dr. Jim Berry, past president of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association. From Korducki K. Weight watchers: Canada’s pet obesity problem. Readers Digest Canada. https://www.readersdigest.ca/home-garden/pets/weight-watchers-canada-s-pet-obesity-problem. Accessed January 19, 2020.