Pet obesity is currently one of the top health concerns for our pets, and a quick assessment of optimal body weight could be the start to lengthening your pet’s life.
Here are some tips to tell if your pet tips the scale, and what to do about it.
Working with your vet to rule out other medical problems is the first step. While some drugs and some disease conditions (i.e. hypothyroidism) may cause a pet to be overweight, more often obesity is caused by overfeeding and high calorie foods. Your vet will help you devise a diet and exercise plan for your pet to get on the track to health and fitness.
1. Pet has lost his/her “figure”
When viewed from above, your pet’s back should show some gentle curves: a gentle dip after the ribs (waist area), a gradual slope to the base of the tail. When viewed from the side, you should see a “tucked up” area just before the hind legs (not a flat line along the base of the belly). Your pet may have a haircoat the prevents easy viewing, but gently running your hands along the top outline of your pet should reveal these natural curves.
2. You can no longer feel your pet’s ribs
With gentle fingertip pressure, you should be able to feel your pet’s ribs easily. If you can only feel cushioned body wall, your pet is carrying too much weight.
3. Your pet is constantly searching for food/begging for treats
A pet who is always on the lookout for food versus a pet who is comfortable “free feeding” is more likely to be overweight. If possible, it is best to offer food free choice (always available). This is not always possible in mixed pet households and with pets who are always craving their next meal, but it will usually encourage a healthier outlook on food consumption. Restricting high calorie treats is also a good way to reduce weight.
4. Your pet is uninterested in, or unable to exercise and keep up with you
Pets of optimum body weight and in good health are usually up for a brisk walk or a game of Frisbee or catch anytime their owner is willing. Pets who are overweight may have the intention, but are soon panting excessively or taking frequent rest breaks just to keep up. Carrying extra body weight can lead to extra pressure on the joints, heart, and lungs. Additionally, other organs, such as liver and pancreas can be affected; leading to diseases such as Diabetes Mellitus.
5. Your pet suffers more from the summer heat than other animals
In addition to the body having to work harder just to move around, overweight pets overheat easily. Fat is a great insulator. This condition is known as “heat intolerance”, and will put overweight animals at greater risk for heat stroke.
6. Your pet is deemed to be at greater risk for anesthesia and surgery
Some drugs are absorbed into the fat layers. This means that more drug is required to induce/maintain anesthesia than an animal of normal weight and it takes longer for the anesthesia to wear off. If the pet is undergoing a surgical procedure in the abdomen, the increased layers of fat make surgery more difficult; it is harder to visualize organs and other tissue, to securely ligate (tie off) vessels, and to close the incision working with extra layers of fat.
By Janet Tobiassen Crosby, DVM, About.com Guide