Obesity in Pets

Obesity in pets is more common than you might think...

Alison Laurie, Senior Consultant, Crown Vets Inverness

Like in humans, weight gain will occur when the daily energy provided as calories in food given exceeds the daily calories expended. All pets are at risk of obesity, particularly after neutering. A weight gain will always occur if the daily calories from their given diet do not decrease with the animal’s lowered energy requirements with ageing and after neutering.

Obesity in pets is usually due to excessive food intake and/or a lack of regular physical exercise.

Owners may view food as a way to constantly reward and "treat" their pets, which further contributes to daily overfeeding. These “treats" are causing your pet a lot of harm. If given they should always be counted into the pets daily advised calorie amount and not as additional food. 

Weight management has two steps firstly weight loss and then weight loss maintenance.  In the weight loss phase, the energy intake from food must be less than the energy expended each day. Achieving weight loss can be difficult and challenging and assistance and advice is required to achieve this goal. The practice has weight clinics; these are run by the Vet Nurses, to assist you.

Body weights are measured accurately using walk on electronic scales. Obesity is more accurately measured using the patient’s own Body Condition Scores. These scores give a more accurate weight guide for that individual pet.  Scores of 4 and 5 out of 9 are ideal, 6 out of 9 are above ideal, 7 to 8 out of 9 are overweight and 9 out of 9 are obese. So, any scores over 6 are showing some signs of obesity. Careful dietary advice is then given. There are some excellent balanced post neutering and weight management diets available now to help you achieve the ideal.

Obesity is a nutritional disease of pets. Obese dogs and cats have a higher incidence of joint disease, diabetes, respiratory disorders and cancer. They are also are more likely to develop urinary incontinence, have difficulty breathing and getting around , and overall have a poorer quality of life and a lower life expectancy. Obese cats have an increased risk of diseases affecting the respiratory and urinary tract and they are much more prone to diabetes. Obese cats also have difficulty grooming and are predisposed to dermatitis. All obese animals are also at increased risk of complications during any anaesthesia for any surgical procedures.

Pet owners can be prosecuted for animal cruelty by the SSPCA if their pets are seen to be dangerously obese and their health is then seen compromised as a result.

There are well searched balanced diets meant for correct weight loss management without reducing the essential required nutrients in your pet’s food.

Exercise is so important for weight loss and for your pet’s wellbeing. Encourage and enforce regular exercise periods for your pet. As your pet loses weight they will be able to exercise more. With dogs, encourage regular walks and play and with cats, use food from their daily rations in puzzle feeders and toys and encourage them to play and move around more and also look for their food.

Long term maintenance of weight loss is very important, regular weight clinic checks at your Vet Clinic can help you with this. For good professional advice on weight loss and weight management contact the practice for a weight clinic appointment today with one of our nursing team.