Did you know that an overweight pet will live 2-2 1/2 years less on average due to increased health risks? Did you know that 50% of obese dogs will not live past 10 yrs of age? Did you know that obese dogs will get severe arthritis 6 yrs earlier? Many loving pet parents simply are not aware of these statistics and what steps they can take to ensure their pet lives a full and healthy life.
We recommend all pet owners learn how body condition score their pets on a 0-9 scale. Ask your vet or look it up online. A body condition score of 4-5 is ideal, 6-7 is overweight and 8-9 is obese.
Association for Pet Obesity Prevention came out with new research indicating a rise in the number of obese pets in 2014. Following are some findings:
- 58% of U.S. cats and 53% of dogs were overweight in 2014.
- 90% of owners of overweight cats and 95% of owners of overweight dogs incorrectly identified their pet as a normal weight
Obese pets are subject to a number of increased health risks including Type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, and many forms of cancer. It is our job as veterinarians to help pet parents understand that their overweight dog or cat is not a healthy animal.
Think about what and how you feed your pet. Do you know how many calories your pets should eat in a day? Do you measure? Free feeding dry food has been proven to be not healthy and self-defeating for most pets.
Try playing with your younger pets and throwing a ball or toy instead of offering a food treat when they come to you for attention in between meals. Try using a laser pointer for cats to stimulate play. Increased exercise and activity can do wonders to improve your pet’s mood and help with weight control at the same time. Just like humans, aerobic-activity just 20-30 minutes a day balances norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin levels in your pet’s brain. Anxiety levels decrease, and the pet will soon look forward to play rather than taking in extra calories.
Do you own a fenced in yard for your dog? Many well intentioned pet parents let their dogs loose in the yard and consider that exercise. However, romping in the yard off-leash is simply not enough for your dog to reap the benefits for weight control. Try to schedule walk time with your dog to supplement his/her yard play. Controlled leash walking actually is essential for older arthritic pets to help them from getting more arthritic.
Yearly exams are the ideal time to check your pet’s weight and discuss with your pets body condition score. There are many exciting new options for weight control for dogs and cats. Let your veterinarian guide you with food choices and exercise options to help your pet live life to its fullest.
Dr. Joe Martins, DVM, Belle Mead Animal Hospital