Like humans, obesity is a health problem affecting pets around the world at epidemic proportions. More than half of all dogs and cats suffer from obesity. While they might not face the same social stigma obese humans might, the medical consequences remain dire.

Obesity in pets can cause complications in almost every system in the body, predisposing them to a range of conditions from osteoarthritis to heart disease. This is an important issue as it leads to a reduced quality of life for the pet and greater hardship for owners.

At What Point is Your Pet Obese?

It can be hard to decide whether your pet is overweight for some owners. Your local vet can help by weighing your pet and determining their body condition score. Obesity is generally where the animal is 15 per cent or more over its optimal body weight. If your pet is overweight, your vet can help you modify their diet and recommend exercise routines to get them back to a healthy body weight.

Some owners aren’t too concerned if their pet is fat and can even laugh it off. Unfortunately, it means there’s less time to love. One study shows Labradors who were 10 to 20 per cent overweight live an average of 1.8 years shorter than their healthy counterparts.

Health Issues Associated with Being Overweight

Pets who are overweight have a shorter lifespan and poorer quality of life on average. Weight issues are common and preventable but can cause a host of problems, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Heart disease
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Reproductive disorders
  • Liver and pancreatic disease
  • Increased surgical risk
  • Susceptibility to infection
  • Increased risk of some types of cancer

What Causes Obesity?

The most common contributing factors are overfeeding combined with too little exercise. Correcting excessive body weight is largely reliant on changing the type and how much food is available as well as increasing the amount they exercise (for dogs). Feeding practices and lifestyle factors can also make a difference, including:

  • Frequency of feeding
  • Indoor lifestyle
  • Leaving bowls of food available
  • Boredom and emotional stress
  • Desexing (neutered animals require less energy)
  • Type and quality of food offered (excessive feeding of scraps)
  • Competition in multi-pet households (one pet may eat more than their fair share to assert dominance)

It’s essential to know how much food your pet needs for their energy needs. The appropriate amount of feed can vary significantly depending on the type of food and the type, size and ideal weight of the animal. Your pet can advise you about your pet’s particular energy needs.

Specialist Veterinary Services in Sydney

If you need nutritional advice for your pet or have any other veterinary issues, speak to our specialist vets at Sydney Veterinary Emergency & Specialists today. Book an appointment from Monday to Friday 8:30am-6pm or contact us for emergency and after-hours care. Call us on (02) 9197 5800, contact us online or learn more about our services.