The Pet Obesity Epidemic

by Dr. Tutteli Pukarinen

If I told you there was a condition that affected over 50% of dogs and cats, and that it shortened their life and caused them to suffer with increased pain and disease, you would probably agree that we could call that an epidemic. However, because that condition is obesity, we don't talk about it that way. But I think we should treat it very seriously, and do everything we can to prevent and treat it. But first we have to admit something very difficult. Pet obesity is a people problem, not a pet problem. What I mean by that is that most of our pets aren't in charge of how much they eat in a day, we are. Why are we overfeeding them? Probably because most of them  really enjoy food and treats, and we want them to be happy. We feel bad if we think we are depriving them. Somehow we need to recognize our tendency to show our love this way, and try to find other ways to show them how much we love them.

Charlie, a 1.5 year old Poodle was a very busy puppy. Once she stopped growing, Charlie started to gain weight as a one year old. She was also spayed, which does cause a 20% reduction in metabolic rate. We recognized the problem this past October and switched Charlie to Royal Canin Calorie Control, and reduced her meal sizes slightly. She has lost weight slowly but steadily, going from 15.4 lbs to 13.8 lbs. Her body condition score has dropped from 4/5 to 3.5/5 (ideal is 3/5). She has about another pound to lose, and then we will calculate a maintenance plan for her to ensure she doesn't gain weight again. Charlie has been getting extra walks, which has really helped her weight loss (and kept her happy, as walks are her favorite!)

Obesity is defined as the accumulation of excessive amounts of fat tissue in the body. It is caused by feeding too much, not being active enough, or feeding an unbalanced diet containing excessive carbohydrate or fat. Rarely, it can be caused by a medical condition like hypothyroidism. Overfeeding is easy to do. Our "cup" sizes can vary, and the package guidelines are only a starting point. We can help help you determine how much you should be feeding, and whether you are feeding an appropriate diet for your pet. A good quality weight loss diet can really help your pet lose weight safely. At every visit we determine your pet's body condition score – ideal body condition would score a 3/5. If they score greater than 3 they are overweight. Just ask us, and we will assess their body condition score. We can also give you advice about treats and activity.We recommend weekly weigh ins during the first month so that we can make any necessary adjustments. Just ask your veterinarian during your next visit, or book a complimentary appointment with one of our technicians to start your pet's journey to better health!  The good news is that if your pet has an ideal body weight, they can live longer and have a better quality of life. They will have a lower risk of certain diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, and respiratory problems. We all want this for our pets so let's get started!