7 Weighty Pet Obesity Facts

As pet obesity increases across the country, many pets suffer the consequences. You may think that maintaining an ideal weight is easy for pets, since their food intake is controlled, but the unfortunate truth is that the majority of pets in the United States are overweight or obese. Our Fremont Animal Hospital team wants to provide facts about pet obesity to help raise awareness about this disturbing issue.

#1: Pet obesity is a problem in the United States

The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising awareness about pet obesity to help prevent this issue and treat affected pets. A 2018 survey by the the organization about pet obesity prevalence found that 59.5% of cats and 55.8% of dogs were classified as overweight or obese by their family veterinarian. These numbers equal an estimated 56 million cats and 50 million dogs based on the American Pet Product Association’s (APPA) pet population projections. In contrast, only 45% of cat owners and 39% of dog owners consider their pet overweight—so pet owners aren’t recognizing the problem. An assessment by our veterinary professionals is the best way to determine your pet’s weight status. To determine whether your pet is overweight or obese, our team’s evaluation will include:

  • Your pet’s weight — Our veterinary professionals have a good idea about your pet’s ideal weight, and we weigh your pet and track their weight at every visit.
  • Your pet’s body condition score (BCS) — We also assess your pet’s BCS using observation and palpation at several body points to determine your pet’s fat coverage. In general, your pet should have a defined waist, easily palpable ribs, and an abdomen that doesn’t sag.

#2: Pet obesity is most commonly caused by overfeeding

Many pet owners don’t monitor their pet’s food intake. According to a Waltham Petcare Science Institute study, 54% of pet owners give food to their begging pet, 22% of cat and dog owners overfeed their pet to keep them happy, only 20% measure their pet’s food at every meal, and 87% guestimate their pet’s food serving. 

#3: Overweight pets are at increased risk for insulin resistance

In human medicine, the link between obesity and Type 2 diabetes mellitus is well established. Similarly, obesity in pets causes insulin resistance and impaired glucose metabolism in dogs and cats. In cats, long-term elevated insulin demands and obesity related metabolic alterations cause beta cell destruction, which can lead to feline diabetes. Dogs are less likely to develop diabetes, because their pancreas seems better able to handle the high insulin production demands. However, insulin resistance in dogs may increase their predisposition for pancreatitis.

#4: Overweight pets are at increased risk for cancer

Obesity is known to predispose people to certain cancers, including breast, colorectal, renal cell, and esophageal cancer. Research has demonstrated that fat cells secrete inflammatory mediators, which cause a chronic, low-grade inflammation that results in oxidative injury to DNA, predisposing obese people to an increased cancer risk, and other studies have shown that overweight dogs and cats also have increased circulating inflammatory mediators. More research is needed, but evidence suggests that obese pets are at increased risk for certain cancers.

#5: Overweight pets are at increased risk for respiratory problems

Overweight pets have fat tissue that lines their chest cavity and inhibits their ability to breathe. Many respiratory diseases are caused by or exacerbated by excess weight, including:

  • Brachycephalic airway obstruction syndrome — Brachycephalic pets (e.g., pugs, bulldogs, boxers, and Persian cats) have a facial conformation that inhibits breathing, and excess weight contributes to their breathing difficulties.
  • Tracheal collapse — Small-breed overweight dogs are at higher risk for tracheal collapse.
  • Laryngeal paralysis — Overweight pets are also at higher risk for laryngeal paralysis.

#6: Overweight pets are at increased risk for urinary tract disorders

Excess weight has been linked to several urinary tract disorders, including:

  • Bladder stones — Overweight pets are at higher risk for calcium oxalate bladder stones. A stone that enters your pet’s urethra can become a life-threatening obstruction.
  • Urethral sphincter mechanism incompetence (USMI) — Overweight pets are at higher risk for USMI, which causes incontinence. 
  • Kidney disease — Excess weight leads to hypertension, which damages the kidneys, resulting in chronic kidney disease.

#7: Pet obesity can be prevented

The good news is that pet obesity can be prevented. Steps that can maintain your pet at a healthy weight include:

  • Monitoring your pet’s weight — Weigh your pet and assess their BCS regularly to ensure your pet isn’t gaining weight.
  • Calculating your pet’s caloric needs — Consider your pet’s breed, age, weight, activity level, and spay or neuter status to accurately calculate their daily caloric needs.
  • Measuring your pet’s portions — Don’t guestimate your pet’s portion size. Use a measuring cup or kitchen scale to accurately measure your pet’s meal portions and avoid overfeeding.
  • Limiting your pet’s treats — Ensure treats account for no more than 10% of your pet’s daily calories.
  • Exercising your pet — Ensure your pet receives adequate daily exercise. 

Pet obesity is a concerning issue, but you can take proactive steps to keep your pet fit, trim, and healthy. If you would like your pet’s weight assessed, contact our Fremont Animal Hospital team, so we can determine if they are at a healthy weight and, if necessary, devise a customized weight-loss plan.

By |2023-01-07T18:47:47+00:00January 5th, 2023|Uncategorized|0 Comments

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