Two conclusions from the latest survey conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention are downright scary:
1. 53% of adult dogs and 55% of cats are classified as overweight or obese by their veterinarians, and
2. 22% of dog owners and 15% of cat owners think their pets are at a healthy weight when in fact they are overweight or obese.
These findings indicate that we badly need an objective way to determine whether or not pets are overweight as well as effective methods of addressing the problem that owners and veterinarians can actually stick with.
Pet obesity is not a trivial concern. The list of health problems associated with the condition is long and ever growing. Overweight pets are at increased risk of
- cruciate ligament ruptures
- intervertebral disk disease
- congestive heart failure
- Cushing’s disease
- dermatological disorders
- heat exhaustion and heat stroke
- complications associated with anesthesia and surgery
- hepatic lipidosis
- some types of cancer
The cause of weight gain is usually simple: over a period of time a pet is eating more calories than he or she is burning off. Exercise can increase a pet’s lean body mass, which is a primary driver of an individual’s metabolic rate (muscle burns more calories than fat). Exercise should always be tailored to a pet’s physical fitness, disposition, and overall health, but activities to consider include:
Unfortunately, providing the amount of exercise needed to bring about significant and lasting weight loss is difficult for most pet owners. Dietary modifications to prevent overfeeding are almost always necessary. Picking a food and determining the correct amount to feed is often easier said than done, but an innovative new system called the Healthy Weight Protocol is now available to help veterinarians and pet owners do just that.
The University of Tennessee and Hill's Pet Nutrition collaborated to develop the protocol’s tools, allowing veterinarians to more accurately diagnose overweight pets and create a feeding and monitoring plan that is easy to follow.
The tools are quite different from what have been traditionally available. A veterinarian or technician measures six parts of a cat’s body (four for dogs), and the program uses the measurements and other data to calculate the pet’s body fat index and ideal weight. When measurements can’t be taken, a body fat index risk chart may be used instead.
In either case, the program then produces a detailed feeding plan and weight loss schedule based on which diet the veterinarian and owner feel are best for the pet. The system works with any combination of dry food, canned food, and treats.
Ask your veterinarian if the Healthy Weight Protocol could help your pet lose weight and stay healthy.
Dr. Jennifer Coates