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Obesity

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Is Your Pet at a Healthy Weight?

According to a recent survey, more than half of pets—around 56 million cats and 50 million dogs—in the United States may be overweight or obese!* That’s not good news, because carrying extra pounds can cause all kinds of health issues for our pets. What are the health risks for overweight pets? Both dogs and cats are at increased risk of developing:

• Arthritis and other joint issues

• Cancer

• Constipation

• Decreased immune function

• Diabetes

• Heart disease

• High blood pressure

• Kidney disease

• Liver disease

• Respiratory issues

Even scarier, dogs and cats 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 body condition, 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 score 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 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 P.A.W.S. 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 do I know if I’m feeding my pet too much?

Every pet is different, so it can be hard to figure out how much is too much when it comes to feeding your dog or cat. And every little bite—and treat—counts.

For instance, for a dog**:

• Just 1 slice of cheddar cheese is about the same as a person eating an entire doughnut.

• Consuming 1 large rawhide bone could be equal to a person eating about 7 doughnuts.

For a cat**:

• Around 1/5 of a can of tuna is about the same as a person eating an entire doughnut.

• Just 1 slice of deli ham is equivalent to a person eating 12 doughnuts.

If your pet is overweight, you’re not on your own. We’ll come up with an individualized 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 working off those pounds.

When your pet comes into P.A.W.S. Pet Hospital 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.

References *Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. 2018 pet obesity survey results. https://petobesityprevention.org/2018. Accessed November 25, 2019. **Royal Canin UK. How much are you overfeeding your pet? https://twitter.com/royalcaninuk/status/689858948619460608. Published January 20, 2016. Accessed November 25, 2019.