Like their human companions, pets can struggle with their weight. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, in 2014, an estimated 53 percent of dogs and 58 percent of cats in the United States were overweight or obese.
Being overweight or obese can shorten pets’ lives by increasing their risk for insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease, cancer, and osteoarthritis. The APOP estimates that unhealthy weights can shave up to 2.5 years off of pets’ lives.
Sedentary lifestyles and overeating can contribute to weight gain in cats and dogs. In addition, choosing the wrong foods for an animal’s activity level may contribute to weight gain.
Is my pet too heavy?
Many pet owners miss signs that their pets are maintaining unhealthy weights. Pet owners may have a distorted perception of just what qualifies as a healthy weight, thinking a few extra pounds make for a robust pet. But those extra pounds could be causing substantial harm to cats and dogs.
The APOP lists healthy weight guidelines for cats and dogs. Cats are easily weighed by weighing yourself and then weighing yourself while holding the cat. Subtract your weight, and then you will know how much the cat weighs. Dogs require larger scales, and this is something best handled at a veterinarian’s office.
Wellness visits provide more opportunities to get accurate assessments of pets’ weights. Vets can conduct visual assessments to determine if pets are maintaining healthy weights while also sharing information about the ideal weight for your particular animal.
Cats’ and dogs’ waists should be visible when viewed from above. If your pet seems thick in the middle, chances are he or she can stand to lose some weight.
Exercise and healthy eating are the keys to getting cats and dogs to shed some pounds (animals suffering from illness may need to pursue other avenues to weight loss). Ask the vet how much your pet needs to lose and the role that diet can play in helping your pet to lose weight. Reduce caloric intake accordingly until pets reach the weight vets recommend. When pets are already overweight, adhering to guidelines on food packaging may make it difficult for pets to lose weight.
Exercise is another key to healthy weight loss. Dogs can go out for walks or engage in other aerobic activity, such as playing games of fetch. It can be more challenging to get cats to exercise. Toys that play into a feline’s predatory nature, such as things they have or she has to hunt or chase, may inspire cats to move more.
Overweight pets need exercise and changes to their diets in order to lose weight and extend their life expectancies. Consult your veterinarian for advice on how to help pets shed pounds they can keep off for years to come.