Okay, okay, your dog might be a little short for his weight. Big-boned, maybe. Could lose an ounce or 10 . . . but so what? It’s just a little extra weight, right? What’s the big deal?
Turns out it’s a very big deal – and getting bigger. If your dog is falling into these alarming national average trends, you could be at risk of having fewer years to enjoy with him, because of illness, disease, or even death.
In a study reported and published by Pet Obesity Prevention, it was reported that as many as 52.7% of dogs are either obese or overweight. To get a better grasp of how huge these numbers are, there are 13.9 million obese dogs while there approximately 27.72 million overweight dogs. Combined, that’s a whopping 41.62 million dogs that are outside their ideal weight limit.
From the same source, it further reported that there are 57.9% of obese and overweight cats in the US alone. And this percentage is equivalent to 55 million cats that are either obese or overweight. If these numbers fail to alarm you, then better be informed on the consequences of pet obesity to wake you up on the urgency of the situation.
Consequences of Pet Obesity
Just like with human obesity, pet obesity comes with various negative health consequences to your pet. Published reports have shown that pet obesity can lessen your beloved pet’s lifespan by as much as 2.5 years. So here is a detailed list of the health consequences for your pet if it is obese or overweight.
- Decreased Length And Quality Of Life: as we mentioned earlier, as much as 2.5 years can be subtracted from your pet’s lifespan due to health complications aggravated by or due to obesity. Further, overweight and obese dogs are more irritable, have difficulty breathing, and diminished ability to play—which you will learn more as you read below.
- Increased Risk of Cancer: the direct link between developing specific cancers and obesity is known and widely studied. Dogs that are obese at one year of age showed a higher probability of getting mammary tumors.
- Coat, Hair, and Skin Problems: when pets are overweight, their skin folds into itself creating pockets which make it perfect for development of infections and accumulation of oils.
- Decreased Immune Function: pets have lowered resistance when obese. Salmonella infections and canine distemper are particularly severe and the occurrence is high in overweight dogs.
- Digestive Problems: obese and overweight pets have a higher risk for flatulence and constipation.
- Reproductive Problems: overweight female dogs struggle with dystocia, which is a birthing difficulty that may lead to a vet’s intervention.
- Decreased Liver Function: overweight cats are more likely to develop hepatic lipidosis which is a fat buildup in the liver leading to decreased liver functioning.
- Heat Intolerance: since fat is an excellent insulator, it makes your pet less capable of regulating their body temperature and hence are miserable especially during the summer months.
- Decreased Stamina: since overweight and obese dogs are carrying excess weight around, it takes its toll on them by having less stamina and endurance. Their respiratory, muscles, and heart system were not designed to carry that excess baggage around.
- Difficulty Breathing: the additional fat on the chest area of your pet restricts lung expansion, extra fat on the abdomen also restricts lung expansion during inhalation, and compounding the problem is the increased demand added by the excess weight. For dogs that already have a respiratory problem, being overweight poses a very serious problem.
- Increased Blood Pressure and Heart Disease: just like with humans, pets can also get hypertension due to the additional work load on the heart by the excess weight. This then can progress to congestive heart failure.
- Damage to Ligaments, Bones, and Joints: there are published reports that point out 25% of dogs who are overweight develop serious joint complications. These joint problems are commonly debilitating and painful and are due to carrying extra weight around.
- Diabetes Mellitus: yes, even dogs can incur diabetes and thereby affect your pet’s overall health capacity and quality of life.
Still Not Convinced? More Startling Pet Obesity Factoids to Chew On
- In pet birds, obesity is the number one health problem. Since pet birds have food available to them 24/7, they do not need to work much to feed themselves.
- Majority of vets believe that pet obesity and childhood obesity have a direct correlation.
- Cats who are 20% over their ideal weight are already considered obese while cats who are 10% above their ideal weight are considered overweight.
- Fat pets make people drool over them and consider them as adorable pets—and because of this, having a fat pet is fast becoming the norm. This equates to the normalization of pet obesity by pet owners.
- Many pet owners perceive their pet to have normal weight. Based on studies, 15% of cat owners and 22% of dog owners are wrong when it comes to pet weight perceptions and in fact have overweight or obese pets.
- Did you know that a female Labrador retriever that weighs 90-lbs is equal to a 5-foot 9-inch tall 217-pounder man? Or a female who is 5-foot 4-inch tall and weighs 186-lbs? Yes, it does.
- Did you know that a fluffy cat weighing 15-lbs is equivalent to a 5-foot 9-inch tall male who weighs 254-lbs? Or a 5-foot 4-inch female who weighs 218-lbs? Yes, this is true.
Concerned? How to Know Your Pet is Obese?
Unfortunately, there are no pet fashion magazines to help you know, check or compare if your pet is overweight or not. As a matter of fact, there is still no conclusive and published standard that you can refer to when it comes to your pet’s weight dependent on their age, gender, and breed. However, your veterinarian can help you determine if your pet weighs just right, is overweight or obese based on its Body Condition Score (BCS).
If you don’t want to go to the vet, many pet experts have provided several pointers on how to check if your pet is overweight. And here are the ways to do it:
- Checking your pet’s ribs – your pet is in good physical shape and healthy weight if when you stroke your cat or dog you can feel their ribs—however, the ribs should not be visible to the eye or else that would mean they are undernourished.
- View of the abdomen – when you look down on your pet while they are standing, you can distinctly see your pet’s waistline. And when you view your pet’s abdomen on the side, there is a noticeable tuck in the abdomen that’s after his rib cage.
Keeping Your Pet Healthy All Year Long
So, how do you keep your pet at a healthy weight? Definitely, your pet did not just grow to its overweight size without the help of an enabler (YOU). The first thing you need to do is to check objectively whether your pet is overweight—or worse obese. Then analyze the habits of your pet—and yours that may have contributed to its weight problem. What to look for:
- Know what your pet is eating – beware of processed foods, artificial ingredients, salt, sugar, and fat. Check your pet’s current pet food for nutritional content. Find the sources of where your pet is getting extra food, could it be from other people, garbage, or table scraps? Once you have analyzed these problems, maybe it is time to change to a weight loss pet food to help your pet lose weight yet still get all its needed nutrition. And then find ways to prevent your pet from accessing extra food like avoid giving it table scraps.
- How often your pet is fed – frankly speaking your pet will never tell you, “Alright, I have enough of eating!” Most probably, since your pet is so used to eating, it eats anything you place in its bowl to the very last drop. So try to check with reliable sources on the recommended number of times to feed a dog and how much.
- Exercise – are you providing your pet with the right amount of exercise daily? Or do you just exercise your pet when and if you have the time? This can be a big culprit when it comes to keeping you and your pet’s weight healthy. Analyze and make the proper changes. Maybe you, your husband, or kids can take turns walking the dog or cat—remember if there’s a will there’s a way.
IMPORTANT: if you have an overweight or obese pet cat and are bent on making it lose weight, we caution you to make your cat lose weight slowly. It’s because overweight cats are prone to fatty liver disease or hepatic lipidosis and if weight loss happens too fast, the mobilization of fats from the liver can overwhelm the system and can shut down. So, please be very careful.
Pet Sports Club—Anyone?
If you don’t have the time to provide the healthy exercise for your beloved pet, you can enroll them to a pet sports club. But, before doing so, research the perfect pet’s sports club for your dog or cat because each pet sport club provides various amenities that may not be in line with your goals or budget. Some pet sports center offers yoga for dogs or doga, salon treatments, low-calorie meals, and indoor swimming pool. Some facilities also offer a huge place where your pet can romp and run around to burn calories. While there are also weight loss centers targeted to specific pets like cats or just dogs, the key here is to find a suitable facility who would take good care of your pet while attaining weight loss goals.