Cronulla Veterinary Clinic services pet owners in Cronulla, Caringbah, Kurnell, Woolooware, Taren Point and throughout Sutherland Shire.
What is Obesity?
Obesity is the excessive accumulation of fat tissue, and can lead to serious health problems for your pet.It is the most common nutritional problem seen in dogs and cats in Australia. In a 2005 Australian study of pet health, more than 40% of cats and dogs were overweight or obese.
Pets are considered overweight when they are 10-20% heavier than their ideal body weight, and obese if more than 20% heavier than their ideal body weight. Body Condition Scores are used to assess your pet’s actual weight and ideal weight. This chart is a basic guideline for assessing the weight and health of your pet.
Factors Contributing to Obesity
Most obesity is caused by pets simply eating more calories than they burn. Some factors that influence the development of weight problems are beyond our control, such as genetics, age, gender and breed. Factors that we can control include the amount of food we offer (including tid-bits, treats, and table scraps) and the amount of exercise we provide.
In some cases, diseases may contribute to obesity without other obvious symptoms. These issues could include an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) and overactive adrenal glands (hyperadrenocorticism or Cushing’s disease), certain medications (e.g. corticosteroids) or rare genetic defects. If your pet is struggling with obesity and doesn’t improve with simple dietary changes, you should see a vet.
Health Risks of Pet Obesity
Obesity carries a variety of health consequences, including:
Poorer quality of life
Joint and mobility problems
Danger of complications from anaesthesia
Increased likelihood of developing Diabetes Mellitus
Higher risk of heart and respiratory disease, urinary disorders, skin diseases, and certain cancers.
Reduced heat tolerance and stamina (making it more difficult to burn calories).
Management and Prevention
If your pet has serious weight issues, a vet should carry out a physical examination (possibly including blood tests) to assess your pet’s Body Condition Score and general health. If needed, the vet will recommend a weight management program tailored to your pet.
Generally, a weight loss plan consists of a diet that contains fewer calories, calculated for maintaining the ideal body weight. Special prescription diets are available that are lower in calories and higher in fibre, which can help your pet feel full.
Cutting back on the amount of food you offer is a good idea, but don’t go too far without talking to a vet. If your pet doesn’t get enough food, the lack of protein intake and excessive calorie reduction can lead to muscle loss and fatty liver disease.
Treats need to be factored into the diet intake. Multiple smaller meals may keep you pet from begging or seeking food from neighbors. Some supplements like L-Carnitine, an amino acid often found in prescription diets, may support lean body mass maintenance, fat breakdown, and protection from liver problems.
After you’ve addressed dietary issues, consider exercise. Physical activity is very important because it promotes fat loss while maintaining muscle mass.
Examples of exercising for dogs include walking, swimming and running. Cats can be encouraged to exercise more by moving food bowls into different rooms (so the cat needs to “hunt” and find the food), using “interactive food bowls” (pictured below) and providing them with toys and playing games that encourage movement.
Don’t take any chances with the health of your best friend! If you’re worried about the weight or health of your pet, give us a call right away on 02 9527 2604 or visit us at 41 Kingsway, Cronulla.