Obesity in dogs and cats
What is obesity?
Obesity is defined as an excess of fat tissue in the body and is the number 1 nutritional disorder in animals. One of the most common ways to assess obesity in animals is by using a body condition score (BCS). Animals who carry excess fat tissue in their body are classified as either 1) overweight (5-15% excess body fat) or 2) obese (>15% excess body fat). Did you know that a large percentage of owners report a normal body condition score, when, in fact, their animals are overweight?
What is a body condition score?
A body condition score is a visual and palpable way of assessing whether an animal has an ideal body condition. Three main areas are used to assess
a body condition score are:
1) subcutaneous fat overlying the ribcage,
2) abdominal fat and subsequent presence/absence of “tucked” waist (viewing from the side and from above the animal),
subcutaneous fat overlying the spinal processes
Most commonly, a 9 scale score chart is used, with both BCS = 4 and BCS = 5 being ideal. Sometimes, a 5 scale score chart is used, with BCS = 3 being ideal.
Risk factors associated with obesity
1. Spaying/neutering your animal – decreases natural hormones found in the body that vamp up the metabolism
It is very important to calculate an appropriate amount of food for your animal’s activity level and spay/neuter status. ASK US to see how many kilocalories your animal needs!
2. Lack of activity – taking your dog for daily walks and playing with your cat at home can help maintain an ideal body condition
3. Certain illnesses – for example: hypothyroidism, diabetes, Cushings
4. Dietary factors – it is important to feed your pet a balanced diet that meets their nutritional requirements
ASK US if there is an appropriate diet that we recommend for your pet!
- As much as we all love to feed our pet treats, only 10% of their daily calorie intake should be from treats. ASK US to help you calculate how many treats you can give on a daily basis!
5. Certain drugs – for example: steroid supplementation
Common diseases associated with obesity
1. Metabolic disorders – for example: insulin resistance/glucose intolerance
2. Endocrine disorders – for example: Cushings, hypothyroidism, diabetes
3. Orthopedic disorders – for example: osteoarthritis, intervertebral disc disease
4. Cardiorespiratory disorders – for example: tracheal collapse, laryngeal paralysis
5. Urogenital disorders – for example: bladder stones, urinary tract infections
6. Certain cancers – for example: mammary cancer and transitional cell carcinoma
7. Other disorders – for example: high blood pressure, decreased immune function, increased anesthetic risks, exercise intolerance
What can I do to help my pet maintain an ideal body weight?
1. Feed your pet the correct amount of food – ASK US to calculate food requirements for you
2. Restrict treats/table scraps
3. Exercise/play with your pet
4. Feed your pet a balanced diet suitable for his/her lifestage – ASK US what diet is appropriate
5. Behavioural modification – ASK US for some tips on limiting begging behaviours
6. Have routine weigh-ins – come into the clinic for a treat and weigh in at no cost to you!
Fun fact: did you know that dietary restriction can increase your dog’s lifespan? A study using labrador retrievers showed a median lifespan of 13 years in the dietary restriction group vs. a median of 11.2 years in dogs overfed. That is a difference of almost two years(!!!) simply by feeding the correct amount of food and maintaining an ideal body condition score in your pet
Written by Dr. Emily Chris of The Animal Clinic
Resources: “The Growing Problem of Obesity in Dogs and Cats” by Alexander J. German (text),
http://drsophiayin.com/blog/entry/is-your-dog-fit-or-fat-learn-how-to-body-condition-score-him, http://www.catster.com/lifestyle/play-with-cats-behavior-care, https://www.zoetisus.com/products/pages/rimadyldvm/osteoarthritis.aspx (images)