We know the negative consequences of overeating, poor food choices, and a sedentary lifestyle, but the number of overweight and obese Americans suggests we don’t always do what we know is best for our health. This seems to also be true regarding our pets. Excess weight is linked to serious health problems, but more than half of U.S. pets are overweight or obese. Many pet owners think their pet’s weight is acceptable, but looks can be deceiving. To shed light on this serious pet health threat, our Kauai Veterinary Clinic team shares some startling facts about pet obesity.
More than 50% of all U.S. pets are overweight or obese
A pet is considered overweight if they are at least 10% to 20% heavier than their ideal healthy weight, and according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), more than half of dogs and cats in the United States are overweight or obese. The pet obesity epidemic is a serious problem worldwide, but many pet owners are unaware of the problem and have difficulty recognizing a healthy pet body size or shape and determining their furry pal’s ideal weight.
Excess weight can take more than two years off your pet’s life
Overweight pets generally live shorter lives when compared with healthy weight pets. In a canine study, overweight dogs’ life spans were on average two-and-a-half years shorter than dogs who were at a healthy weight. Overweight or obese pets are at an increased risk of developing numerous serious health issues such as:
- Respiratory and heart disease
- Kidney disease
- High blood pressure
- Many cancer types, especially intra-abdominal cancers
Pet obesity is caused by more than overfeeding
If you overfeed your pet, they gain weight. However, additional factors can cause your pet to become overweight or obese, including:
- Inadequate exercise — Without adequate daily exercise, your pet can quickly pack on the pounds.
- Genetics — Any pet can become overweight, but some breeds are especially at risk, including dachshunds, beagles, Labrador retrievers, and cocker spaniels.
- Age — Metabolism often slows with age. Often various health issues compound an older pet’s sluggish metabolism, making them more likely to develop conditions that can cause weight gain.
- Hypothyroidism — A thyroid gland abnormality can lead to reduced thyroid hormone production. This hormone is important to regulate metabolism, and decreased levels cause weight gain.
- Hyperadrenocorticism — Hyperadrenocorticism (i.e., Cushing’s disease) is caused by a tumor on the pituitary or adrenal glands. Such a tumor increases an affected pet’s cortisol levels, which in turn increases their appetite.
Most pet owners assume their pet’s weight is normal
A pet’s thick fur can obscure gradual weight gain, and many pet owners are unaware of their furry pal’s healthy weight range, according to their age and breed. Furthermore, because such a large percentage of pets are overweight or obese, you have no benchmark against which to compare your dog’s or cat’s weight. While a scale can provide one indicator of your pet’s overall health, each pet’s weight range is based on their body structure, muscle mass, and lifestyle. Therefore, the number of pounds your pet weighs is not always the best gauge of their health status. To help you determine if your pet’s weight is healthy, our Kauai Veterinary Clinic team recommends using a combination of your furry companion’s body weight and their body condition score (BCS). Similar to a human body mass index (BMI), your pet’s BCS is determined by visual and hands-on assessments that are compared with a BCS chart, which scores them from one to five or one to nine, with a score in the middle representing an ideal weight.
Managing your pet’s weight is a lifelong journey
The more you know about your pet’s health and body condition, the better you can manage their weight throughout their life. If your pet is overweight, our team can help you customize their weight loss plan, which may include lifestyle changes, balanced calorie consumption, and physical activity. To maintain your pet’s ideal weight, follow our tips:
- Measure your pet’s food — Calculate the correct number of calories your pet needs each day, then divide that amount into their regular diet’s number of daily meals. Use an actual measuring cup to portion out their meals.
- Exercise your pet daily — In addition to a healthy, portioned diet, your pet needs daily exercise to maintain an ideal body weight.
- Reduce your pet’s treat intake — Keep your pet’s treats to a minimum. Treats should make up no more than 10% of your pet’s total daily caloric intake.
Our veterinary team is trained to assess your pet’s weight. Through regular wellness visits, we can determine if your furry pal is overweight and track their progress as they travel their weight loss journey. Schedule your pet’s wellness visit or their body condition assessment with our Kauai Veterinary Clinic team.