Andrea Thomson Viner
According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, an estimated 59% of cats and 54% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese. Obesity in pets is just as unhealthy as it is in humans, so the staff at Edgewood Animal Hospital in Cedar Rapids will help you ensure your pet is at a healthy weight.
With Pet Obesity Awareness Day coming up on October 11, now is a great time to learn more about the causes of pet obesity , the effects on pets’ health, and what to do if your pet is overweight or obese. Dr. Jonelle Hankner says that the most common causes of obesity in pets include a lack of exercise or stimulation, feeding your pet the wrong diet, giving too many treats or table scraps, and overfeeding.
Dr. Hankner also notes that thyroid disease, or other metabolic disorders, can cause obesity or unhealthy weight in pets. Signs of thyroid disease include: lethargy, generalized weakness, inactivity, mental dullness, unexplained weight gain, hair loss (alopecia), excessive hair shedding, poor hair growth, dry or lusterless coats, excessive scaling, recurring skin infections, and intolerance to cold. If your pet exhibits any of these symptoms, see a veterinarian. The only way to know that your pet has a thyroid issue is to run a blood panel to check the thyroid function.
Excess weight can cause many ailments in pets. Dr. Hankner notes that obesity can cause skin infections or other issues; joint problems, including arthritis; and diabetes (or other metabolic and endocrine disorders). Gaining weight is unfortunately a negative cycle: “Excess fat causes inflammation that causes the metabolism to slow down, making weight loss more difficult,” says Dr. Hankner.
Now, let’s talk solutions. To help your overweight or obese pet lose weight, Dr. Hankner says the first point to consider is a proper diet, possibly a prescription diet formulated for weight loss. “We offer auto shipping of these diets,” says Hankner, “which helps with compliance.”
Exercise, of course, is another key to weight loss. Dr. Hankner realizes that sticking to an exercise plan can be difficult, so she recommends having a walking buddy to keep you accountable to walking your dog. She also recommends taking your dog to a dog park, and committing to regular weight check-ins for both cats and dogs.
October is the perfect month to commit to making walks a part of you and your dog’s daily routine. October 1-7 is National Walk Your Dog Week. According to the Walk Your Dog Week organization, “If you and/or your dog are overweight, walk just 30 minutes a day, three times a week, and you can lower blood pressure, increase energy, heighten your sense of happiness and well being, and reduce your weight by 5% and your dog’s by 15%” (www.walk yourdogweek.com).
Exercising your cat is obviously a different story from exercising dogs. Since walking your cat likely isn’t an option, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention recommends the following activities: Move the food bowl away from where your cat likes to hang out the most Play “Find the Food” by moving the food bowl downstairs or upstairs and rotating the location so your cat has to walk to get food. Use toys like feathers or flashlights (or anything that interests your cat in chasing), and try to engage your cat for 10 minutes per day So, this month, make a commitment to check your pet’s weight and adjust its diet if needed. Then get creative with your cat’s exercise and get out with your dog to enjoy the crisp weather and the autumn leaves—it’ll do you both good!
How to Tell If Your Pet is Overweight*
You should be able to feel and count your dog’s ribs when you lightly run your fingers across its side.
If you stand over your pet, you should see an hourglass figure or an indentation near the midsection.
When you look at your pet from the side (while it’s standing), you should see a “slight tuck or upward slope of the tummy.” The abdomen should not hang low.
*Information from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (www.petobesityprevention.org)