Obesity in Pets: Trigger's Weight Loss Journey
“Is my pet overweight?”
Tigger presented to Art City Vets for an annual wellness examination at a whopping 16.8lbs with a history of being “highly food motivated” and borderline “ravenous”. He had always been a big cat with a big appetite according to his owner. This is a common storyline for many of the overweight pets we see.
A recent study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention found that 55.8% of dogs and 59.5% if cats in the US are overweight. Many owners are unaware of their pet being overweight. It can be difficult to appreciate under a thick layer of floof. So how can you know if your pet is overweight? As a general rule of thumb for dogs, you should be able to feel and count each rib with gentle pressure from your fingers. I also like to see a “waist tuck” both from the side and from above where the chest leads into the abdomen. Cats can be a bit trickier but in general low hanging bellies are not a good sign. Measure up your pet with the charts below. Body Condition Score gives us an idea of how overweight your pet is and helps us to calculate an ideal weight. When in doubt ask your veterinarian to discuss your pet’s Body Condition Score.
“How can I get my pet to lose weight?”
Getting Tigger to lose weight had proven a challenge for his owner especially because of his big appetite.
In general, the most effective method of weight loss is decreasing calorie intake. This may mean decreasing treats or meal amount. Weight loss should be a gradual journey; a dog can safely lose 1 to 3-percent of its body weight and cats 0.5 to 2-percent per month; that’s about ½ lb per month for an average cat. I personally focus less on counting calories and instead focus on slightly decreasing food, performing frequent weigh-ins, and adjusting as needed.
Many cat and dog foods are very high in fat, and are a surprisingly large amount of calories per gram which explains why so many owners feel their pet “doesn’t even eat that much”. I frequently recommend trying over the counter, weight loss foods that make your pet feel fuller with less calories. If weight loss is not easily achieved, we may rely on prescription diets for more drastic results.
Increasing exercise is another key component to weight loss. Consider longer walks with your dog or play sessions with your cat. Puzzle feeders can help make your pet “work” for their food and adds extra mental stimulation.
Regarding Tigger, our own Dr. Whiter discussed weight loss diets, calorie calculations, and exercise methods. It was ultimately decided that prescription diet would be necessary to satiate Tigger’s enormous appetite.
“Why should I care about my pet’s weight?”
Why did we push for weight loss in Tigger who was an otherwise healthy young cat? Obesity in animals is associated with many diseases including, but not limited to, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and certain cancers. A study of age-matched Labrador retrievers found that dogs kept on the slender side of normal lived a median of 2.5 years longer than their overweight counterparts. Many aspects of our pet’s health are largely out of our control. However, weight is a direct result of feeding and exercise habits provided by the owner. The bottom line is that we want your pets as healthy as possible for as long as possible.
Thanks to the treatment plan and his owner’s diligent efforts, Tigger is now a trim 12lbs and no longer at high risk for diabetes and arthritis. Way to go Tigger!
By Dr. Leah Tassoni
BEFORE & AFTER