Top Reasons Pet Obesity Is a Serious Problem

Obesity is a growing problem—and not just among people. Humans are gaining weight, and so are their pets. In the US, it's estimated that 59.5% of all cats and 55.8% of all dogs are overweight or obese. A chubby cat or pudgy pup might look cute but carrying that extra weight can be bad news for their health. If you're concerned about your pet's weight, bringing them in for a weigh-in and checkup at an animal medical hospital in Jacksonville can help you get a better sense of how they're doing and what you can do to help them drop the extra pounds if needed.

What Is Pet Obesity?

An ideal weight for a pet depends on whether they're a cat or dog and what type of cat or dog they are. Some pets should weigh more than others based on their breed. When a cat or dog is heavier than the target weight for their breed, they're considered either overweight or obese, depending on the amount of extra weight they're carrying around.

Even if you don't have a scale at home to weigh your pet with, you can often see whether or not they're carrying some extra weight by looking at them. A pet who falls within the healthy weight range will typically have a slight indentation in their midsection when you look at them from above. The abdomen should tuck upwards toward their body when you look at your pet from the side, rather than dip down toward the floor.

Just as you can often tell whether a person is overweight or not based on their body mass index (BMI), you can tell if a pet is overweight or obese by calculating their body condition score (BCS). Pets with a score between 4 and 5 are considered to be at a normal or ideal body weight. They have a visible waist, and you can feel their ribs when you touch them. Pets with a score between 6 and 7 are overweight. They have more fat around their frame so that the ribs are less easy to feel. They might have a less defined waist. Pets who score between 8 and 9 are considered obese. They have no clearly defined waist and a thick layer of fat over the ribs, making it difficult to feel the ribs.

If you're not sure whether your pet falls into the overweight or obese category, a vet at an animal care hospital in Jacksonville can weigh and examine them to let you know how your pet is doing weight-wise.

The Effects of Obesity on Pets

Carrying extra weight doesn't just mean that your pet looks a little plump. Those extra pounds can also have a serious effect on their overall health. Obese pets are more likely to develop certain health conditions than pets that are a healthy weight. Many of the conditions that affect overweight pets are similar to the conditions that affect overweight people:

Increased Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

One of the leading risk factors for diabetes in pets is being overweight or obese. When a pet has type 2 diabetes, they continue to produce the hormone insulin, but their body no longer responds to it. Without treatment, pets with diabetes can experience liver failure and kidney damage. Once it occurs, diabetes is usually a lifelong condition in pets that might require treatment with insulin injections and special diets.

Higher Rates of Cancer

People who are obese or overweight have a higher risk of developing certain cancers compared to people who are at a normal or healthy weight. The same might be true for pets who are overweight. Obesity in pets might be linked to higher rates of certain types of cancer. Helping your pet lose the excess weight can help to lower cancer risk and prolong their life.

Higher Rates of Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a fairly common medical condition in pets, particularly in older cats and dogs. In some cases, the animal's breed can make them more likely to develop the condition. German Shepherds and Labradors are two breeds that are more likely to develop arthritis than other breeds.

Pets who are carrying extra weight also have an increased chance of developing osteoarthritis due to the extra pressure the excess pounds puts on their joints. Arthritic cats and dogs might not move around as much as they once did and might find it challenging to jump or climb up and down stairs. Although you can treat arthritis with medications and dietary changes, there is no cure for it.

Lower Quality of Life

Overall, obese pets are likely to experience a lower quality of life compared to animals with a BCS between 4 and 5. An obese pet might need to visit a 24-hour animal hospital near Jacksonville more frequently than a pet that's of a healthy weight due to medical conditions.

Obesity can also shorten a pet's life, meaning you have less time to enjoy with them. Pets that are of a healthy weight tend to live about two years longer than pets who are overweight or obese.

How to Help Your Pet Lose Weight

If your pet weighs more than the recommended amount for their breed, or if you can clearly see that they're carrying extra fat, you can work with your vet to put together a plan to help your pet reach a healthy weight.

It's essential that you work with your pet's veterinary team before you put them on a diet. You want to make sure that your dog or cat continues to get the nutrients they need from their diet even as you work to reduce the number of calories they consume.

Your veterinarian will give you a weight goal for your pet. For example, if you have a domestic cat that weighs 14 pounds, your vet might recommend bringing their weight down to 10 pounds. The vet will also help you calculate your pet's resting energy requirements and how many calories to feed them each day to help them lose the pounds.

Your pet also needs exercise to help them lose weight, whether that means taking your dog for a long, brisk walk or playing with your cat using a feather toy. The more your pet moves, the more calories they'll burn.

Once your pet reaches their target weight, continue to keep an eye on them so that they don't regain the weight. It's also important to keep an eye on your pet's health in general and to bring them to a pet hospital in Jacksonville for regular checkups or if you are concerned that something's up. If it's time for your pet to lose weight, contact Forever Vets Animal Hospital to learn more about what you can do to help them.

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