Why Pets Become Overweight

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I have a yellow lab named Tonka, who is extremely attached to my husband Steve. Tonka is so pathetic; when Steve leaves for work Tonka lays his head on my lap and gives me “sad puppy dog eyes”. To cheer him up one day, I took him to the dog park. While I was there, I saw many friendly and happy dogs, but one of the biggest things I noticed was that over half of these dogs were very overweight.

I make sure Tonka is in great shape by controlling how many calories he eats and the amount of exercise he gets.  I feed him a set amount of food each day and forbid table scraps. I know Steve sneaks a few dog cookies (but that’s okay).  Tonka also loves to chase Frisbees and run around like crazy which keeps him very physically fit.  So if we can control how many calories our furry friends eat and how much exercise they get; it is easy to wonder why pets become overweight?

Some causes of obesity can be:

  • Genetic  factors- certain breeds are more prone to being heavy
  • Neuter status -Spayed and neutered pets need ¼ less food
  • Diseases, like hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease can play a factor in weight gain
  • Age- as pets become older they are at higher risk to become obese
  • Owners- overfeeding and lack of exercise

Just like in people, excess weight can lead to many health problems like:

  • Diabetes
  • Orthopedic problems (arthritis)
  • Heart conditions and high blood pressure
  • Respiratory problems
  • Skin disorders
  • Cancer

For dogs and cats there are a few simple checks you can do which, if carried out regularly, can help you to prevent your pet from becoming obese:

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

If your pet does not pass all three checks above, or if you are in any doubt about your pet’s weight, always consult your veterinarian. He or she will be able to give your pet a health check and if necessary, they will recommend a weight reduction program suitable for your pet. This will most likely involve making changes to your pet’s diet and making recommendations about exercise and activity.

Making these changes will help prevent your pet from gaining excess body fat and keep your pet healthy and happy like Tonka.