Is Your Pet Obese?

Like humans, pets can develop excess body fat that can lead to serious health problems such as diabetes or degenerative joint disease. But how can you tell if your pet is obese?

In recognition of National Pet Obesity Awareness Day on Oct. 11, Dr. Audrey Cook, associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, offers some insight.

“It can be hard for owners to determine if their pet is at an ideal weight, so ask your veterinarian for their opinion,” Cook said. “In addition, you can check your pet’s weight regularly at home to catch weight gain early.”

Obesity is a serious health condition that can directly impact a pet’s lifespan and quality of life. For instance, an obese pet may have difficulty breathing, become fatigued with routine exercise, and be unable to groom itself effectively. Although obesity is treatable, in most cases, it takes time and dedication to a create and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

“In general, feeding the appropriate amount of a high-quality diet, combined with regular exercise and limited treats, is the best way to keep your pet in good shape,” Cook said.

With so many different brands of pet food available, creating a high-quality diet can be confusing or even challenging. Cook advises that consulting with your veterinarian about the ingredients in your pet’s food can ensure that your furry friend is getting the nutrients they need. As far as exercise, aim to give Fido a daily walk and encourage indoor Fluffy to play, chase toys, and “hunt” for food.

Besides diet and exercise, there are other factors that may contribute to the development of obesity, including orthopedic disease, which can limit an animal’s mobility, or an under-active thyroid gland (more common in dogs), which can cause substantial weight gain.

In addition, Cook said that some medications—particularly steroids—can increase appetites and encourage weight gain.

To provide your pet with a healthy and happy life, consult your veterinarian about keeping a balanced lifestyle and choosing the right food for your pet’s nutritional needs.

Pet Talk is a service of the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.