Get Your Best Friend’s Summer Body Ready
We all love to pamper our pets, but sometimes our efforts to give them the best lives possible can backfire in unexpected ways. The desire to give our dogs and cats some extra food here and there is understandable – who can resist their adorable begging? Unfortunately, this can result in some pretty serious health problems if we overdo it. Animals may look cute when they are round and squishy, but pet obesity is no joke.
What Causes Obesity?
The simplest answer to this question is too much food. Giving a dog or cat more food than is appropriate for their size, breed, and activity level is going to result in them gaining weight.
However, the type of food they get is also going to have an effect. Feeding them high-calorie foods when they do not require it can be a big problem for their waistline. Each animal is a unique individual, so it is important to work with a veterinarian when figuring out what type of food is best for them.
Another factor that can contribute to weight gain is age. As pets age, their metabolism slows down. They also tend to become less active in their later years. If the amount of food they eat does not change along with them, they are going to gain weight.
In addition to these common causes of pet obesity, there are also some underlying health problems that can lead to weight gain in certain cases.
Those health issues include:
- Cushing’s Disease
A veterinarian will be able to figure out if an obese pet is suffering from an underlying health issue, or just eating too much food.
How to Tell if a Pet is Overweight
Sometimes it is obvious that a pet is overweight just by looking at them, but that is not always the case. Different breeds of cats and dogs have different body shapes. That can sometimes make it difficult to tell when a pet has transitioned from a normal, healthy weight to an unhealthy one.
One simple way to know if there is a problem is to keep careful track of a pet’s weight. Weighing them on a regular basis will make it obvious if there is a large gain in their weight, a clear sign that something is going on.
Another method that can be used to determine if they weigh more than they should is by scoring their body condition. This can be done by a veterinarian during an examination. They will palpitate the pet’s body and compare them to the standard of their breed, giving them a score based on that standard. That score will determine whether they are underweight, a normal weight, overweight, or obese.
Health Effects of Pet Obesity
The effects of obesity on pets can vary based on the individual animal, but there are some common health issues to look out for in an obese pet.
- Difficulty Breathing
- Heart Disease
- Shortened Lifespan
- Decreased Quality of Life
The effects of obesity on cat health and dog health are very similar, but there are some differences due to their unique biology. While obesity can lead to diabetes in both cats and dogs, cats are more likely to develop it. Another aspect of cat health that is less of a concern with dog health is urinary tract disease. Keeping a cat fit and at a healthy weight can help prevent urinary troubles.
How to Get and Keep Pets in Shape
Those health effects are scary, but luckily avoidable by keeping pets in good shape. It may take an iron will to resist those puppy-dog eyes, but refraining from feeding excess treats is worth it in the long run.
So long as there are no underlying health problems, losing weight is as simple as gaining it. It primarily comes down to basic diet and exercise. If there are underlying health problems, then a veterinarian will be able to help come up with a more specific weight loss plan.
The best diets for obese pets are generally high in protein and low in fat. They also need to be fed in appropriate portions. Some pets can self-regulate the food they eat, but one that is obese does not possess that talent and should not have food available at all times. It is up to the human in their life to feed them separate, well-portioned meals.
That does not mean that delicious treats need to be left out entirely. There are many treats for both dogs and cats that are both tasty and on the healthier side. Moderation is the key.
Diet alone is not going to completely solve the problem. Exercise is a crucial part of any weight loss plan. Obese pets often have a reduced tolerance for exercise, so it is important not to push them too hard in the beginning. Simply increasing a number of walks a dog takes every day is a good start. Cats can be encouraged to move around more with toys. Cats also enjoy being up high, so cat towers may lead to them jumping and climbing – both great forms of exercise.
As they lose weight and get in better shape, the amount of exercise can increase. For dogs, walks can become runs, and cats can be lured into running around the home with exciting toys and the promise of catnip.
Once a pet loses weight, it is tempting to fall back into the old habits of decreased exercise and extra treats, but this needs to be avoided. Keeping them in shape is just as important as getting them in shape in the first place, so a healthy diet and appropriate amount of exercise need to be continued throughout their life.
The health effects of obesity are dire, but they can be easily prevented through healthy diet and exercise. Our pets are counting on us to keep them in shape.