Obesity is one of the most common medical conditions faced by pets and it is becoming increasingly prevalent in Australia. Obesity is not just being overweight, it is the accumulation of excess body fat causing a pet to be more than 15% above their ideal body weight.
Pets can become overweight for a number of reasons including;
- Overfeeding – the dog eating more than they actually require for energy use.
- Wrong Food – feeding a food with a high calorie count when not necessary.
- Treats & Scraps – feeding to many treats or scraps.
- Reduced Exercise or Activity – the pet may have reduced activity levels or not get enough exercise.
- Medical conditions such as hypothyroidism, hyperadrenocorticism (cushing’s disease), insulinoma (a tumor on the pancreas) and diabetes mellitus.
- Age – older pets are more prone to becoming obese.
- Spayed or Neutered pets are more likely to become obese.
- Certain breeds are genetically predisposed to obesity and therefore a higher risk of becoming obese. These breeds include, Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Cocker Spaniels, Cavaliers, Beagles, Pugs, Dachshunds and Persian cats.
Suffering from obesity can drastically reduce a pets quality of life as well as reduce their life expectancy. Obesity in pets can exacerbate or cause a number of health conditions including;
- Intolerance to exercise or decreased stamina
- Heat intolerance
- Decreased immune system / susceptibility to infection
- Heart disease
- Respiratory problems
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Skin problems
- Joint and arthritis conditions
- Liver disease or dysfunction
- Increased risk of cancer
- Increased anaesthetic risk
Here are a few tips to help determine if your pet is overweight;
- They should have a observable waist – a tapering in from the end of the rib cage to the back legs.
- When you gently palpate the ribs you should be able to feel them with only a thin layer of fat coverage.
- An overweight or obese pet will often have fat deposits at the base of the tail, chest and/or neck.
If you think that your pet may be obese it is a good idea to take them to the veterinarian for a checkup. The vet will weigh them and use the Body Condition Scoring system to determine if they are overweight. They will also look for any underlying medical conditions as well as help you determine the reasons behind the obesity and how to go about helping your pet lose weight safely. Keeping your pet in a healthy weight range will reduce their risk of illness and help ensure that they live a happy and healthy life.
Originally published in My Pet Magazine Winter 2016.
To view all issues of My Pet Magazine click here.