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Several recent studies suggest that pets — like their people — are packing a few extra pounds and additional health problems; in today’s veterinary blog, why your pet’s weight matters.

This week USA Today reported that our pets are getting fatter.  According to the According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), more than 50% of the United States pet population is overweight.

Here’s a handy chart that breaks those numbers down by state: State of Pet Health Report; you’ll notice that here in Idaho, weight-related health issues rank 2nd for most common health conditions in pets. Since pets can’t feed themselves, in most cases where an animal is overweight, it can be attributed to people who are overfeeding or feeding them the wrong types of foods.

It’s only a few extra pounds, right? Simply put, excess weight causes harm to your animal friend. Unlike humans who might get away with a slight weight gain, pets have much smaller bodies, so gaining a few pounds translates to a large percentage of body weight gain. At my house, my senior 20 lb terrier mix gained about 3 pounds  — a significant increase for her — 15% gain (we’re working on it).

Physical conditions that often occur following a pet’s weight gain include:

  • poor exercise intolerance
  • decreased stamina
  • breathing difficulties
  • heat intolerance
  • high blood pressure
  • diabetes or insulin resistance
  • osteoarthritis
  • liver disease/dysfunction
  • increased cancer risk

The few extra pounds may creep up and a pet’s person may not notice the change. Your annual exam with your veterinarian will provide a snapshot of your pet’s weight and a good opportunity for you to discuss it.Pets and ObesityFat or just a little fluffy? Could you quickly access your pet’s physical condition? According to the APOP,  when surveyed almost half of dog owners and 45 percent of cat owners who had overweight pets described them as a normal weight. Here’s where we need a professional opinion. Your family veterinarian is familiar with your pet’s breed, the normal weight parameters for an animal in your pet’s age range, and your pet’s health history. He/she will have the insight to give you a clear answer on your pet’s physical state.

Determine if your pet is a little pudgy with a quick physical exam. Run your fingers along his/her body. You should be able to feel the ribs and the bones near the base of the tail. There should not be excessive fat roles around the neck.

Obesity challenges outside of feeding and diet. Even with a good diet and regular exercise, some pets may still gain weight. A few additional factors play a role, such as:

  • Cocker spaniels, dachshunds, Dalmatians, Golden retrievers, Labrador retrievers, Rottweilers, Shetland sheepdogs and mixed dogs with these breeds are more prone to weight gain.
  • Spay/Neuter. Animals that have been altered are at an increased risk of gaining weight.
  • As our pets age, their metabolism slows down — and their diet will need to reflect that (sound familiar? It’s a people problem, too).
  •  Older pets may not have the desire or the physical ability to exercise and play to get sufficient activity and burn calories.
  • Pet food may be too high in carbohydrates and/or the serving size may be too large for your pet’s needs. When you throw in a treat (or two) overweight pets are getting too many daily calories.

If you think your pet could lose a few pounds, consult with your family veterinarian on a healthy way to help your pet reach his/her ideal weight. He/she will have excellent advice on the types of food your pet should eat — and the foods they should not eat. Our animal friends rely on us to provide the good care and nutrition and to help them live long healthy lives.


WestVet 24/7 Animal Emergency & Specialty Center is always open. If your pet is experiencing an emergency, please come directly to our hospital. We have a talented and highly-trained team ready to assist you. 

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