It has been estimated that nearly half of U.S. dogs and cats are
overweight or obese. Pet obesity can be caused by genetics, high-fat
diets, overeating, lack of exercise and health problems such as
hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone levels).
While gaining 1
or 2 pounds may not make a lot of difference to your body, for a cat or
a dog with a comparatively smaller body, a few pounds can add a lot of
stress to bones and organs. If left untreated, dogs and cats may
experience serious health issues secondary to obesity. Excess pounds
can even shorten your pet's life span.
Common health problems associated with obesity include:
Lameness, Arthritis and other Joint Disorders
High Blood Pressure
Exercise Intolerance and Overheating
Increased Anesthetic and Surgical Risks
Reduced Life Span
A groundbreaking 14 year study by Purina researchers showed that dogs
fed to an ideal body condition throughout their lives had a median life
span of 1.8 years longer - and were considerable healthier - than their
The lean-fed dogs:
Stayed healthier longer, with delayed treatment for chronic
conditions such as osteoarthritis, which was treated later by a median
of 3.0 years.
Had healthier blood sugar levels, blood pressures, and heart rate
by researchers to have fewer visible signs normally associated with
aging, such as graying muzzles and reduced activity at a later age.
Please click on the link below to open a large version of the Purina
Body Condition Score Chart. This chart provides the first step to
assessing your dog's body size based on clear descriptions and diagrams
using a scale of 1 to 9 (emaciated to morbidly obese). The chart
organizes body condition into 3 categories, and your dog should fit
within the ideal range.
You can help your pet return to the proper weight for a healthy, more
comfortable life. For success, your pet's weight reduction program
1. A specific veterinary weight reduction diet
such as Purina OM or Hill's R/D for dogs or M/D for cats, which have
been specifically formulated for healthy weight loss.
Eliminate free feeding. Instead of leaving food out all the time, feed
your pet at designated times throughout the day. Controlling when and
how much your pet eats can help him stick to the weight management
program. For multiple pet households, make sure to feed each pet
separately, so that each pet gets the right amount of their respective
3. Limit treats. No table scraps or high calorie treats
should be given. Shower your dog with love and attention instead of
treats. Be mindful of the quality and quantity of treats fed each day -
calories add up quickly! Healthy treats include low calorie biscuits
(cut them in half to cut even more calories!), baby carrots, green
beans, and apple slices. Give all treats in moderation.
moving. Daily exercise is one of the keys to improving your pet's
health. Just 20 minutes of walking or playing fetch each day can help
keep your dog fit, and is healthy for you too! Encourage cats to chase
toys or laser lights in the house to increase their activity level.
5. Frequent veterinary re-checks and weigh-ins ensure your pet is losing the right amount of weight at the proper rate.
1. Metabolic Disorders If a metabolic disorder such as
hypothyroidism is causing your pet's weight gain, diet foods may not
always help. Before initiating any diet, your dog or cat should be
examined by a veterinarian to rule out metabolic dysfunction and
2. "Reduced-calorie" foods may not be low in calories You
may have tried giving you dog or cat reduced calorie food. The trouble
is, this food may have fewer calories than regular food, but that
doesn't necessarily mean that it is low enough in calories to help your
pet lose excess weight.
3. Lack of exercise Without
adequate, consistent exercise as part of a weight-loss program, some
cats and dogs may fail to lose weight even if they are on a low calorie
A cookie or a piece of cheese may seem like a little treat to you, but it can be like a whole meal for your pet. Too many snacks add up fast. Avoid unhealthy snacks and table scraps, especially if you are trying to help your pet maintain a healthy weight.
The Merrick Veterinary Group is organizing a pet weight loss challenge to encourage our overweight patients to lose weight and become healthier pets. Any dog or cat is eligible to enroll. The only requirement is a committment from YOU to increase their exercise and to decrease the total calories consumed by your pet. The dog or cat with the biggest total percentage of weight lost will be declared our winner!
If your dog or cat is overweight and you would like to get advice on starting a weight-loss program, please call 516-379-6200 to schedule a consultation today.