by Damen Muller DVM
Animal lovers know the many different sizes and shapes that of our cats and dogs now come in. Most will know the personality of ‘’That Fat Cat or Dog” and how sweet they can be when food is around. So what do we do? - overfeed. The cuddly fat cat or dog does come at a cost however. Obesity is well recognized in humans but many fail to realize how overweight their animal actually is. Obesity in dogs and cats exist when an animal’s weight is ≥20% above ideal body weight. Obesity predisposes them to early onset osteoarthritis, cardiopulmonary disease, renal disease, diabetes, fatty liver disease, pancreatitis, shorter life span, and more. Studies have shown that obese cats from the ages of 8-12 have a 2.8 fold increase in mortality when compared to lean cats in the same age bracket, and dogs lived on average 2 years longer than siblings considered obese.
Ignorance is bliss, since many people do not appreciate the risks of obesity in our companion animals, and it is being seen at alarming rates. Some studies show that almost 50% of cats from 5-10 years of age are overweight/obese and that 40% of dogs >1 year of age are overweight/obese. Some significant factors attributing to these results are overfeeding, free feeding, excessive use of treats, owner’s incorrect belief of the ideal body condition, health issues, lack of exercise, and more.
So what can we do? First, identify any potential health concerns attributing to your animal’s obesity and seek medical advice. Next, critically evaluate the lifestyle, activity levels, and nutrition and prepare to make life changes. Good information into understanding and caring for our cats and dogs can be found at ASPCA.org and thehumanesociety.org. Important nutritional information can be found at petmd, AAHA, and vetnutrition.tufts.edu.
Feeding excessive amounts of food is not the only way we make animals “feel good”. Take the time to understand that obesity is a real risk for your pet and educate yourself on how we can all become better pet owners. DONT kill them with kindness. It will pay in the long run.