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Obesity And Your Pet


03.11.2021 by Lauren Foster DVM, DACVN, CCRP

Obesity is the number one nutritionally responsive disease veterinarians diagnose in pet dogs and cats. Studies show that being just overweight (body condition score 6/9, where 4-5/9 is ideal) leads to a reduced quality and quantity of life. Obesity increases a pet’s risk of developing many conditions, including osteoarthritis, diabetes mellitus, lower urinary tract diseases, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer. In fact, weight loss in overweight or obese pets is the most effective means of managing osteoarthritis and reducing the clinical signs (such as lameness, pain and immobility) associated with it. Over half of the adult dog and cat population in the U.S. is overweight or obese. Is your pet? Using a validated body condition scoring system, such as the one pictured here, gives us an objective way to assess our pet’s body condition and determine if he/she is at an ideal body weight. Body condition is much more important than a number on the scale! A 4-5/9 is ideal for both dogs and cats.  

If you cannot easily feel your dog or cat’s ribs when they are in a standing position, they are likely overweight or obese. If you cannot appreciate a “waistline” on your pet when viewed from above while it is in a standing position, it is likely overweight or obese. It is very important to know how many calories your pet is consuming each day. You can calculate caloric intake by knowing how much you feed your pet (measuring cups, grams) and how many calories are provided by the diet. This information is required on the pet food label and provided as kcal/cup or can and kcal/kg. You should know caloric intake from your pet’s primary diet, but also caloric intake from treats, human foods, or other foods fed. Any pet’s treat allowance for the day should be kept to less than 10% of their total caloric intake in a day.This not only helps you to avoid excessive treating which leads to overweight and obese body conditions but avoids unbalancing the pet’s overall diet. If you have an overweight or obese pet at home, please consult your veterinarian for the best strategies for achieving ideal body condition. This may simply begin with reducing the number of calories fed (if you are overfeeding), but if your pet has a BCS of 7/9 or greater, a weight loss plan with a therapeutic diet is warranted. Your veterinarian is the best source of guidance in your pet’s weight loss journey! 

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