“Supersized” Pets

by Daniel Franklin, DVM

Obesity is a preventable disease that can predispose your cat or dog for other serious health problems such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory complications, skin disorders, hypothyroidism, lower urinary tract disease, liver disease, pancreatitis, cruciate ligament ruptures, and arthritis, to name a few.

Considering approximately 30-45% of the cats and dogs in US homes are overweight, that’s an epidemic proportion of pudgy pets!

Current studies suggest “fat” is the largest endocrine organ in the body and can grow, and grow and grow at any stage of your pet’s life. Factor in a cat or dog’s genetics, gender, age, activity, and diet and it’s no surprise that watching your pet’s weight requires diligence and consistency.

How do you know if your pet is overweight?

Simple. If you can’t feel her/his ribcage or see an abdominal waistline when viewed from above it’s time to do something about it!

Moderate = Ribs palpable without excess fat covering. Abdomen tucked up when viewed from side.

Overweight = General fleshy appearance. Ribs palpable with difficulty. Noticeable fat deposits over lumbar spine and tail base. Abdominal tuck may be absent.

Obese = Large fat deposits over chest, spine and tail base. Waist and abdominal tuck absent. Fat deposits on neck and limbs. Abdomen distended.

Major considerations should be your pet’s activity level as well as feeding practices.

Pets are often overfed because petparents are unaware of appropriate types and amounts of food to feed. Excessive feeding guidelines provided by petfood manufacturers also add to the confusion.

Then there’s the (understandable) human urge to give pets special treats—from bon-bons, to liver treats to half of a cheeseburger and some fries. Many cats and dogs are eating far too much for their body sizes and not exercising enough to offset those extra calories.

For example, if a 10 pound pet licks up one tablespoon of ice cream that is comparable to a 180 pound person eating an 18 tablespoon serving of the same tasty treat. Now that’s “portion distortion” on four paws, especially if done on a daily basis!

Better snacking options for your dog include carrots, green beans, peas, lima beans, broccoli and even cauliflower (but no onions, garlic, grapes, raisins, plums, prunes, avocadoes or cherries)-but even then, everything in moderation. As for your cat, find her/his inner kitten again and encourage lively play times.

Successful pounds-per-pet control results from knowledge and understanding of any specific breed tendencies along with changes in feeding habits and lifestyle that include a structured, but enjoyable, activity level.

So if it you can’t find your cat or dog’s ribs or waistline and want to prevent the suffering and (life-threatening) health risks that result from obesity, it’s time for a whiskers-to-tail checkup and nutritional consult.

Leading a longer, healthier, more comfortable life is the best “treat” you can give to your pet!


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