When your pet gains weight, they lose life.

You cannot sugar coat pet obesity, a completely preventable medical condition that affects an alarming 59 percent of cats and 55 percent of dogs in the United States. Excess fat tissue, decreased exercise, and excessive caloric intake shorten pets’ lives every year, and lead to unnecessary pain and suffering. Mill Creek Animal Hospital knows how much you love your pet, and we love them, too. We do not want to see their life interrupted or cut short by a preventable weight-related illness.

Whether your pet is currently fit, fat, or somewhere in between, let’s work together to improve their quality of lifestarting right now.

What’s the big deal about overweight pets?

Adipose tissue (i.e., fat) is deposited in the body when the calories consumed exceed metabolic need. Adipose tissue generally provides energy, protection, and insulation for the body. Unfortunately, high quantities of adipose tissue create a pro-inflammatory environment, and chronic inflammation makes your pet more susceptible to:

  • Osteoarthritis
  • Type II diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Kidney disease
  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Respiratory problems

What contributes to pet obesity?

There is more than one road to pet obesity, and many factors may be at work simultaneously, including:

  • Inappropriate nutrition — Feeding a high calorie food or high carb diet
  • Overfeeding — Providing free access to food at all times
  • Inadequate exercise — A casual sniffing stroll may be good for your pet’s mind, but does nothing for their body.
  • Age — Older pets have a reduced metabolism, and need fewer calories.
  • Reproductive status — Spayed and neutered pets have an altered metabolism, and do not need a high calorie diet unless they are active or working.
  • Medical conditions —Untreated canine hypothyroidism and other endocrine diseases may cause weight gain.

How can I tell if my pet is overweight?

Assessing weight gain in pets can be challenging. Their hair coat and various body types can make knowing what normal should look like almost impossible, especially if the pet is significantly overweight. Fortunately, you can assess your pet, no matter their breed, mix, or current body condition, in several easy ways. 

  • Behavior changes —First, assess your pet’s demeanor and behavior. While pets can generally conceal pain and discomfort, their actionsor lack ofcan be revealing. Weight-related behavior changes include: 
    • Reluctance to exercise Your once eager pet now hangs back, or stays on the couch, instead of playing or going for walks.
    • Tiring easily — Your pet cannot walk as far as they used to, or ends the game of fetch after only a few throws.
    • Breathing heavily — Overweight pets have added pressure on their heart and lungs, and may pant after only light activity.

Schedule an appointment at Mill Creek Animal Hospital if you note any change in your pet’s behavior or activity level, as these signs can also indicate other medical conditions.

  • Physical assessment — You can also use an easy hands-on evaluation to determine if your pet is carrying extra weight:
    • Rib check — Your pet’s ribs should be easily felt without needing to push. If you feel fleshy covering, your pet may need to lose weight.
    • Zero waist? — After the rib cage, your pet’s silhouette should narrow like an hourglass, until your hands reach the hips. If there is no tuck-in, it’s time to check-in with your veterinarian.

What can I do to help my pet?

Do not be discouraged if you discover your pet needs to lose weight. Identifying the problem and taking action is the kindest thing you can do for your beloved pet. Partner with your pet’s veterinarian to address your pet’s veterinary, nutritional, and exercise needs:

  • Veterinary needs — Have your pet examined at Mill Creek Animal Hospital before modifying their diet or exercise routine. Our veterinarians will rule out potential medical causes, assess your pet’s overall health, and identify any road-blocks to effective weight loss. Addressing any pain, such as arthritis or intervertebral disc disease, is important, to ensure safe and comfortable exercise.
  • Nutrition — Based on your pet’s body condition, our veterinarian will develop a weight loss plan and goals for your pet. The plan will include a specific diet to fuel your pet’s body and promote calorie burn. Your veterinarian will also advise you to:
    • Count your pet’s calories.
    • Measure all meals with a measuring cup. 
    • Feed your pet twice a daydo not let them graze all day.
    • Substitute unhealthy pet treats with low-calorie veggies.
    • Slow down your pet’s meals with a puzzle toy or treat ball.
  • Exercise — Begin with low-impact cardiovascular exercise, avoiding strenuous, concussive activities, such as fetch, frisbee, or jumping, which can cause serious injury to an overweight pet. 
    • Walks should be at a steady, brisk pace, without stopping to sniff. Begin with a five-minute walk, adding two to five minutes each week, until your dog can walk 20 to 30 minutes.
    • Exercise your cat with short sessions of stalking and chasing with a laser pointer, motorized toy, or feather wand.

Once your pet hits their initial weight loss goals, their exercise plan will be adjusted accordingly, to prevent a plateau. 

Managing your pet’s weight is a lifelong commitment, but that commitment is proven to add years to their life. Start your pet’s journey toward better health by calling Mill Creek Animal Hospital for a nutritional consultation.