Can you pinch an inch, or more, on your pet? Overweight pets are no laughing matter, since excess weight can cause several significant health problems. Our team at Sale Creek Veterinary Services would like to provide information on pet obesity, and offer advice on how to best manage your pet’s weight.

Why is my pet’s weight a concern?

Pet obesity results in a diminished quality of life, and a decreased life expectancy. The health problems encountered by overweight pets are thought to be caused by inflammatory compounds produced by the excess fat tissue. These health issues include:

  • Diabetes mellitus — In obese pets, insulin receptors on the fat and muscle cells are damaged, reduced, or function incorrectly. This results in the cells becoming resistant to insulin’s effects, and the cells cannot use glucose. Signs include increased appetite, increased thirst and urination, lethargy, and weight loss.
  • Kidney disease — Obese pets are at higher risk for developing high blood pressure, which causes increased strain on the kidneys. These pets also have higher hyaluronic acid levels inside their kidneys. Hyaluronic acid accumulation damages the kidneys, and causes sodium resorption and water retention. 
  • Respiratory disorders — Excess fat along the chest wall and abdomen compresses the lungs, making air intake difficult. Obese pets may also experience ventilation-perfusion abnormalities, which occur when not enough oxygen enters the body, but the arterial carbon dioxide levels are normal.
  • Cancer — Chronic inflammation caused by fat cells put overweight pets at higher risk for developing cancer.
  • Arthritis — The excess weight puts additional stress on joints, causing cartilage breakdown. In addition, compounds produced by fat cells target the joints, causing inflammation, and contributing to arthritis.

Is my pet overweight?

Your pet’s fluffy haircoat may conceal the added weight they carry. The best way to determine if your pet is overweight is an assessment by veterinary professionals at Sale Creek Veterinary Services. We will accurately weigh your pet, and assign a body conditioning score (BCS) and muscle conditioning score (MCS), to determine their weight status. You can also use BCS systems to evaluate your pet. This scoring system relies on observing your pet from the side and over their topline, and palpation in several areas.

How do I manage my pet’s weight?

Managing your pet’s weight can be challenging, especially if they have mastered begging pitifully. You must remember that you are improving their health, and increasing their life expectancy. Steps include:

  • Ruling out health issues — Certain health conditions, such as hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease, can lead to weight gain in pets. Our veterinary professionals should assess your pet, to ensure that their weight gain is not caused by a medical condition.
  • Calculating your pet’s caloric needs — If your pet is overweight, our team will help set an appropriate target weight. If pets lose weight too quickly, serious health problems can occur, so weight loss must be gradual. Calorie calculators can help determine your pet’s energy requirements once their target weight is determined.
  • Changing your pet’s diet — In some cases, changing your pet’s diet is required to help them lose weight. Diets high in protein benefit pets during weight loss, because they meet dietary protein requirements during caloric restriction. They also make the pet feel more satiated than high fat or carbohydrate diets. Any diet change should be done gradually over at least one week. 
  • Measuring your pet’s food — Use a measuring cup to accurately measure your pet’s needed food amount, to ensure you aren’t accidentally overfeeding them.
  • Scheduling set feeding times — Feed your pet at scheduled times two to four times a day, as opposed to allowing them to free feed. Small meals throughout the day will also help keep them satiated.
  • Using food puzzle toys — Feed your pet using a food puzzle toy, which will engage their mind, and ensure they don’t eat too fast.
  • Limiting treats — Treats should constitute only 10 percent of your pet’s overall calorie intake. Many pet owners fail to account for treats when calculating their pet’s daily caloric intake, so the pet receives far more calories than needed. Consider feeding vegetables, such as baby carrots, broccoli, and green beans, as low calorie treat options.
  • Exercising your pet — Physical activity is key to helping your pet lose weight. When walking your dog, set a brisk pace that will elevate their heart rate. Cats can be enticed to exercise using laser pointers and wand-type toys. If your pet is not used to exercising, start slowly, and gradually increase the activity level and exercise time. Your goal should be to engage your pet in physical activity 10 to 15 minutes, twice a day.
  • Monitor your pet’s weight — Weigh your pet weekly, to monitor their progress. If you see no weight loss after a month, consult our veterinary professionals about changes to your pet’s weight loss program.

By following our advice, you can help your pet become slim, trim, and healthy. If you would like your pet’s weight assessed, do not hesitate to contact our team at Sale Creek Veterinary Services to schedule an appointment.