Overweight and obese dogs and cats are becoming more frequent, mirroring the trend in the human population in the United States. Similarly to people, this trend has multifactorial causes including a sedentary lifestyle without appropriate exercise, ingestion of excessive calories/treats and sometimes secondary to an underlying disease process. Overweight and obese dogs and cats have shortened life spans compared to lean pets, and often even the quality of life is diminished compared to lean pets.
Excess body weight continuously causes abnormal excess stress on the joints and back. This can predispose to cruciate ligament ruptures, joint pain/discomfort, arthritis, and back or neck pain. Obesity not only exacerbates orthopedic and neurologic (spinal) disease, it can lead to and exacerbate metabolic diseases. Those metabolic diseases can include insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes, blood pressure elevation, and potential for heart and respiratory problems.
Dealing with an overweight or obese pet is very frustrating and requires dedication on the part of the pet owner. Like many things, it is far better to try to prevent a pet from becoming overweight or obese in the first place by establishing good habits including discussing the appropriate diet for your particular pet, healthy treats and treat habits, and measuring food and meal feeding for your pet.
As part of a comprehensive wellness plan for your pet that you should establish with your primary care veterinarian, you should discuss caloric requirements for your pet if your pet develops concurrent disease processes and even as the pet progresses through different life stages. Please call your primary veterinarian to discuss a weight management and nutritional plan that will work for you and your family and is tailored to your pet.
-Dr. Jessica Diaz