Pet Health Canine and Feline Obesity

Published on April 19th, 2017 | by Debbie Martin


Canine and Feline Obesity

Just as with humans, the number of pets showing signs of obesity is increasing. Canine and Feline Obesity can be defined as an excess of body fat that is enough to impair health, welfare and quality of life.

The vast majority of pet obesity is caused by either pets eating too much, eating the wrong sort of food and/or not exercising enough. A smaller number of cases can be disease related. Often the weight builds up slowly and goes un-noticed. Regular weighing and recording is the only way to get an accurate overview of whether a pet is creeping up from their ideal weight.

Several factors make obesity more likely in pets. E.g. for dogs:

  • Breed – certain breeds have a higher risk.
  • Age – the risk increases with age.
  • Neuter status – neutered dogs are more at risk.
  • Sex – apart from older dogs, obesity is reported to be more common in female

As a responsible pet owner it is important to be concerned about your pet’s weight as obesity can affect the well-being of the animal and lead to increased visits to the vets which will have financial implications. Obesity can lead to diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease, high blood pressure and cancer. It can also reduce mobility and aggravate pre-existing mobility conditions such as arthritis.

To determine whether a dog or cat is overweight a technique called body condition scoring is used. Most veterinary practices will offer to do this free of charge. If your pet is the correct weight you should:

  • be able to see and feel the outline of your pet’s ribs without excess fat covering.
  • be able to see and feel your pet’s waist and it should be clearly visible when viewed from above.
  • see the pet’s belly is tucked up when viewed from the side.

It is very hard to refuse slipping your pet a titbit from time to time and most owners do not realise the harm that prolonged feeding of titbits is doing over time. There is also a lack of education about which foods are harmful and also how much to feed each day. For example, a 30g piece of ham is a staggering 123% over an average cats’ daily recommended energy intake and a rawhide bone chew is 67% over a 20Kg dogs’ daily recommended energy intake.

Obesity can be managed by exercise and diet. As with anything, your vet will advise you to start off slowly and gradually introduce more exercise. New diets should be introduced gradually to avoid stomach upsets, slowly increasing the levels of the new diet so that after 5 – 7 days the pet is solely on the new diet.

There is a bewildering choice of diets available and it is often difficult to separate good marketing from clinical evidence. It is also important to take into consideration, size of animal, breed, age etc., which makes the decision even more confusing. Your vet or nursing team should be able to advice you on the best suitable diet for your pet from a reputable company such as Royal Canin or Hills.

Pet obesity continues to be a concern, with vets reporting that up to three quarters of all pets they see are over their ideal weight. It is important that we continue to educate and work with owners to help them to provide their pets with optimum nutrition and exercise to maintain ideal weight.

Top tips

  • Be aware that all dogs are different. The recommended amounts on pet food packaging is a guideline only. Some dogs need more and some need less.
  • Any titbits given should be deducted from the regular food portions
  • Owners should be encouraged to weigh food to ensure the correct size portions are given. Using a clear beaker with a marker is an easy way of ensuring the right quantities are given
  • Separate animals at feeding time


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About the Author

Debbie has worked for Beeston Animal Health for a number of years and although generally involved with the marketing these days she has a great deal of knowledge on many things to do with small animals.

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