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How to Diagnose and Prevent Pet Obesity

by | October 8, 2020 | Trending

Overweight dog and cat on red background

We all love our pets very much. That’s why we care for them and do everything in our effort to keep them happy. However, we may become oblivious to one of the largest health concerns our furry friends can face…pet obesity.

Pet obesity is a very serious concern, especially when the new year begins, and often owners may not recognize their pet is obese or might not want to admit a pet has become overweight. It’s nothing to be ashamed about, especially if you follow our tips to identifying, preventing and treating pet obesity. At Prudent Pet, we want pets to enjoy good health throughout their lives and weight management is one very important step on the right path.

Obese Pets – Data & Statistics

Fat cat sitting on floor

Pet obesity in the U.S. has become an epidemic. In 2018, over 60% of cats and 56% of dogs were classified as overweight or obese, as reported by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP). This would indicate 50.2 million dogs and 56.5 million cats are above a healthy weight limit. If trends remain consistent from previous years, veterinarians can expect to see a higher percentage of obesity in both cats and dogs in the coming years.

How Can I Tell if My Pet Is Obese?

The first step to uncovering if your pet is a healthy weight is to determine if your dog is obese or not. The most foolproof method of doing so would be to have a visit to your veterinarian. However, there are approaches to telling if your pet is the appropriate weight described below.

Pet obesity stats from Prudent Pet

How to Tell if Your Dog Is Overweight

To determine if your dog is obese, gently press down on their rib cage and feel for a thin layer of fat covering the ribs. If you cannot feel their ribs your doggo may be overweight. You can also tell your dog is overweight if he is lagging behind on walks or has difficulty getting in or out of cars. Another sign to look out for is excessively panting. Always consult your vet before adjusting your dog’s lifestyle such as diet or exercise. Underlying health issues can cause dogs to gain weight, so it’s important to rule this out first.

How to Tell if Your Cat Is Overweight

For a cat, there is an indentation that should be noticeable on their waist. If you cannot see or feel this indentation between the ribcage and the hips, your fluffy buddy is most likely overweight. Cats that have difficulty climbing or jumping may also be overweight. Other signs your cat could be overweight is an extended abdomen or sleeping for longer than usual.

For both dogs and cats, the best solution would be to head to your vet and get their professional opinion on the proper weight for your animal friend.

Obesity Risk for Dogs

  • Arthritis
  • Liver Disease
  • Diabetes
  • Heart Failure
  • Wear & tear in joints and legs

Obesity Risk for Cats

  • Chronic Kidney Disease
  • Asthma
  • Immobility of Spine
  • Urinary Tract Disease
  • Gall Bladder Disorder

These are definite concerns for owners who have obese pets. The key is to ensure your pet remains at a healthy weight. This may not be as easy as it sounds for some pet owners so…how do we prevent them from becoming overweight?

Obese Dogs – Prevention

Three large dogs being walked outside by owner

Follow our tips to ensure your dog stays in shape! For the most part, diet and exercise will keep your puppo in good shape. That may seem easy, but it does require work.

  • Regulate your dog’s food intake and hold back on excessive treats
  • Provide your pets with healthy snacks to enjoy (check out these healthy recipes for both cats and dogs!)
  • Exercise daily! Play fetch, go for runs, take your furry friend to the park. So many options! The American Kennel Club suggestions on how much exercise your dog requires. PetMD provides a good guideline for how frequent your cat should be exercising.

Take further action by consulting your vet about which food they suggest and how much they should be consuming and check out our How Much to Feed Dogs resource.

Obese Cats – Prevention

Fat cat eating from white bowl

Cats struggle with their weight more than dogs do. Cats will have trouble with different facets of their life if they become overweight. It is important to stay ahead of the game. As everyone knows, preventing weight gain is much easier than shedding weight. While pups can go for runs with their masters and play fetch in the park, cats don’t have the same opportunities. The following are tips to ensure your kitty stays at an appropriate weight.

  • Create a personalized diet plan with your vet. Your cat’s diet might include:
    • High fiber foods
    • High protein foods
    • Reduced meal sizes
    • Provide ample water to your cat to reduce hunger
  • Exercise
    • Play with your cat. Check out 10 cat exercises you and your little buddy will enjoy!
    • Scratching post – This will keep your cat engaged and active throughout the day
    • Rub catnip on their toys to excite and entice them to play
    • Take your cat outside and play with them. Outdoor enclosures reassure safety but read up on other tips to fully ensure wellbeing.
    • If you’re up for it, take your pussycat for walks. Before you venture out into the world, review these guidelines for training your cat to walk on a leash.

The most important thing is to get your cat moving and having fun! If you engage with them while also controlling their diet your fluffball will enjoy their fit body and be able to live a happier life!

Pet Weight Loss

If you think your pet may already be overweight or obese, no worries! It’s never too late to turn your pet’s weight around by following some guidelines and tips we have to offer. Our ultimate suggestion would be to consult with your veterinarian to come up with a plan customized to your animal.

As you can see in the image below, according to APOP’s study, there is much uncertainty about where to go for advice. Always go to your vet before any other medium when it comes to your pet’s health.

Dietary recommendation stats from Prudent Pet

Dog Weight Loss

English bulldog running through water

Weight loss is not only tough for humans but can be very difficult for doggos. Helping your dog lose this excess weight is very important and with the right guidance and patience, it may be easier than you think. The first step would be to visit your veterinarian and put together a specialized diet for your little friend.

Next would be to hear your vet’s recommendations on exercising and any additional tips they may offer. Follow similar guidelines provided in obesity prevention on how to optimize your dog’s exercise. It’s imperative to get your dog active and truly increase their activity level.

Cat Weight Loss

Two young cats jumping from furniture

Like dogs, cats do not shed weight too easily, however, it is possible and manageable. The most important thing is to combine a well-balanced diet with increased exercise. Many people think switching to canned food will be the answer for their cat (and dogs), but according to APOP and vets, dry food has more benefits to promoting weight loss. Canned foods often contain more fat than dry foods while also spoiling faster and not to mention more expensive.

The conversation is open to debate and it may possibly depend on your animal, so again, always consult with your veterinarian. Remember to increase the amount of exercise your cat is doing, especially with the exercises discussed previously. Creativity plays a major role in getting your kitty to exercise and it’s not as hard as it seems.

The following chart contains additional advice for promoting weight loss that will give your pets that extra edge to losing weight;

Canned (moist) vs. dry food stats

  • Do not use a self-feeder
  • Move their food bowl frequently so they must walk to get to their food bowl
  • Monitor how much food your cat or dog intakes
  • Feed your animal friends in toys or puzzles so they must work for their food
  • Exercise with your animal
  • New toys will help keep them engaged and continuously exercising
  • If your fluffball begs for food, take them for a walk or play with them instead
  • Increase the length and intensity of your walks and exercise

How to Help Obese Cats and Dogs Live Healthier Lives

Small dog and cat playing on floor together

There are some factors you can control to help your cat or dog stay healthy and one important thing to remember is to be a responsible pet owner. If you take quality care of your loved one, they will have a better chance of being in good shape and living a healthy life.

Enrolling your dog or cat in an insurance plan can help cover regular exams to manage their weight. If you want to take a step further and secure peace of mind over your fluffy friend’s health, receive a free quote today to see how much Prudent Pet Health Insurance can save you on veterinarian bills!

The information provided on this website is made available for educational purposes only. It should in no way be substituted for professional veterinary assessment of each individual patient by a suitably qualified veterinary surgeon or veterinarian.

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Jenna Brashear

As one of the most enthusiastic dog lovers in the Chicagoland suburbs, Jenna spends her free-time snuggling and exploring the wilderness (many dog parks and forest preserves) with her best friend, Rudy. Rudy is an adopted Tibetan Terrier mix who enjoys lounging around the house, begging for table scraps, and receiving his daily butt rub. With his black and white coat, curly tail and smelly toots, Rudy is often referred to as our little skunk. Rudy’s favorite past-time is barking at the waves created by our paddle boat and chasing the pesky rabbits out of his yard. We are enamored with him and can’t believe how lucky we are to call Rudy our furbaby.