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Pet Obesity: How to Identify and Address Unhealthy Weight in Our Pets

Avoid Pet Obesity and Tip the Scales For Your Pet Towards A Long, Healthy Life

Here in the United States, pet obesity is the most common preventable disease amongst dogs and cats, affecting over 50% of dogs and over 60% of cats.

How Do I know If My Pet is Overweight?

When evaluating a pet's weight, we use something called Body Condition Score or 'BCS' to determine if the pet is underweight, at a healthy weight or overweight. This scoring system uses diagrams and specific descriptors to articulate how your pet's body should look and feel at their ideal weight.

Description of Ideal Weight For Dogs:

• Ribs easily palpable with minimal fat covering

• Waist easily noted when viewed from above

• Abdominal tuck evident

Description of Ideal Weight For Cats:

• Well proportioned

• Ribs not visible but are easily palpable

• Obvious waist

• Minimal amount of abdominal fat

When setting a target weight, we use the BCS as our guide rather than picking an arbitrary number of pounds. This is because every pet - even ones of the same species, breed and age - will weigh a unique amount of pounds at their ideal weight, due to individualized build and body type. Using the BCS to drive weight goals ensures the target weight is appropriate for the specific animal in question.

What Are The Consequences of My Pet Being Overweight?

Obesity is a serious disease that negatively impacts many of your pet's body systems, placing them at an increased risk for countless secondary diseases.

Overweight Dogs Are at Risk For:

• Shortened Lifespan

• Cancer

• Heart Disease

• Osteoarthritis

• Diabetes

• Urinary Issues

• Complications Associated with Anesthesia

Overweight Cats Are at Risk For:

• Shortened Lifespan

• Complications From Inability to Self Groom

• Cancer

• Heart Disease

• Osteoarthritis

• Diabetes

• Urinary Issues

• Complications Associated with Anesthesia

Helping your pet maintain a healthy weight is one of the best ways you can increase their longevity - one study in dogs showed that dogs of a healthy weight lived almost two years longer than dogs who were just moderately overweight!

How Do I Help My Pet Lose Weight?

It's imperative to collaborate with your veterinarian when creating your pet's weight loss plan, to ensure your pet continues to receive a complete and balanced diet that is meeting their metabolic needs. It's not always quite as simple as just reducing the amount of food they're eating! Depending on your pet's specific case, your veterinarian may suggest switching your pet's food all together and often it's to a prescription diet formulated for weight control.

Tips on How to Prepare for a Nutritional Consult With Your Veterinarian:

Gather as much concrete information as you can regarding your pet's current food plan. Your veterinarian will need a complete list of everything your pet eats in a day, including portion sizes and associated calories. Taking photographs of the nutritional labels on your pet's food products is the easiest way to accurately document and relay this information. For food items not purchased as a pre-made product (ex: table scraps, etc.), it's helpful to write out a list of every item your pet receives on an average day - be honest!

Safe Ways You Can Support Your Pet's Weight Loss Journey:

Replace larger, high calorie treats for the small 'training treats' that contain on average 1-3 kcals per treat

Replace store-bought treats with cut up raw, fresh vegetables such as green beans

Measure your pet's meals instead of free-feeding or using an unmarked scoop

For homes with young children, gate off family mealtime spaces to prevent tablescrap consumption

Use frozen low-sodium chicken broth in mental enrichment tools vs. high calorie spreadables like peanut butter


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