Individual animals vary greatly in the amount of food they
require to maintain their body weight. Some of the factors which
influence your pet's weight are physical activity, diet,
genetics, and metabolic rate.
Dogs and cats who are often idle, bored or inactive expend
less energy and require fewer calories than active pets.
Activity levels tend to decrease with age.
Some dogs and cats consume too much food if they are offered
an unlimited or excessive amount of any diet. In addition,
most table scraps and treats are high in calories and can
cause weight gain.
Some breeds of dogs such as Labrador Retrievers, Pugs,
Beagles, Cocker Spaniels, and Dachshunds appear to be more
at risk for obesity, which suggests a genetic factor.
Individual animals expend energy differently. Therefore,
some highly efficient animals may gain weight despite normal
affects many body systems and health risks can be significant
Obesity increases the workload on the heart, which can
aggravate cardiovascular problems.
Obese dogs and cats may have shortness of breath, can be
easily fatigued, and may have difficulty breathing after
An abnormal glucose tolerance may predispose overweight or
obese dogs and cats to developing diabetes.
Obesity increases the stress on joints and may lead to or
aggravate musculoskeletal problems such as arthritis and
intervertebral disk disease. This in turn will make your pet
even less active, reducing the use of calories and
A compromised immune system due to obesity may affect a
petís ability to fight disease or recover from illness.
Obese animals are at a greater safety risk of undergoing
anesthesia, and surgical complications may arise.
Liver disease in dogs may be related to obesity. Obese cats
are more prone to Hepatic Lipidosis or Fatty Liver disease,
a serious and sometimes fatal condition.
Skin and Hair Coat:
Obese animals are more prone to having skin conditions and
are not able to keep themselves as well-groomed or clean as
a pet of healthy weight.
Early mortality can be a risk for overweight pets and even
more so for obese pets. Obesity is often associated with
increased risk of adverse effects on health and longevity.
Life expectancy can be decreased by as long as 2.5 years.
Severely obese dogs and cats are also more prone to heat
stress, exercise intolerance, gastrointestinal disorders,
and reproductive problems. In addition, overweight and
obese cats are also at higher risk for feline lower urinary
Fewer Calories + More Exercise + Commitment = Weight Loss
The first step in any weight loss program is a visit to the vet
for a thorough physical exam and consultation. Some disease
conditions can coincide with obesity and may need to be managed
before weight loss can occur in a healthy manner. A
consultation can also help determine your petís ideal weight,
the number of calories he or she needs to achieve weight loss,
and whether or not a weight loss diet is needed.
Counting calories means measuring your petís rations. Get a
standard measuring cup just for your petís food. Avoid using a
soup can or a used yogurt container to measure- anything other
than a 1 cup measuring cup will not be accurate.
Whether continuing to feed
your petís current diet in smaller amounts, or changing to a
weight loss diet, itís important to avoid feeding anything but
the prescribed diet. Treats can be included if their calories
are factored into your petís daily calorie count. Try to select
low calorie treats or feed healthy alternatives like raw or
cooked fruit and vegetables, dried pet food kibbles, or even ice
cubes. Stay away from grapes and raisins; they can be toxic
Regular exercise burns more calories, reduces appetite, changes
body composition and will increase your petís resting metabolic
In general, when starting an exercise
routine, start slowly and gradually increase the amount of time
and intensity of exercise. Walking, running, hiking and swimming
are all great activities for dogs. Dogs may also enjoy playing
fetch, ball, or Frisbee. With cats, you may have to be a little
more creative, but exercise can and should still be a part of
each catís life. Try getting your cat to chase a string or laser
pointer. Wands with a toy attached may also interest some cats.
If your cat gets frisky with catnip, use it to his/her
advantage. Any type of play can usually count as exercise as
long as your cat is moving!
In order to be successful,
a weight loss program must include commitment and behavior
modification from the owner. As your petís caretaker, you
need to take responsibility and permanently change the behaviors
that have allowed your pet to become obese. Start by removing
your pet from the room when you eat, reducing snacks and treats,
and providing non-food related attention and rewards. You can
also feed several small meals throughout the day to curb your
petís hunger, and offer food only in the food bowl. Make your
petís exercise regimen a part of your daily routine. Weigh your
pet regularly and chart his/her progress at home.
Occasionally, weight loss plans may need to be re-assessed and
modified depending on progress.