Avoiding pet obesity is the best way to prevent the condition’s detrimental effects. Keeping your pet at an ideal weight will help preempt several serious health issues, and give your pet a better chance to live a long, happy life. Our team at Westerville Veterinary Clinic wants to educate you on how obesity affects pets, and provide ways to prevent your pet from becoming overweight.

Pet obesity’s detrimental effects

When a pet overeats, the excess calories are stored as triglycerides inside fat tissue. In obese pets, this fat tissue becomes overworked, fat cells die, and immune cells become activated, causing chronic inflammation throughout the body. This inflammation can lead to numerous dangerous health conditions for the overweight pet, including:

  • Cancer — Obesity increases a pet’s risk for developing cancer, which is likely explained by the damage when visceral fat causes chronic inflammation. This inflammation affects many body processes, including how the pet’s body manages hormones. These changes lead to an increased cancer risk by affecting how and when cells divide and die.
  • Diabetes mellitus — Obese pets have a decreased ability to use insulin, leading to hyperglycemia. This condition starves the body’s cells, which can’t use glucose without insulin’s help, causing the body to break down fats and proteins for an alternative fuel. The high sugar levels in the bloodstream also damage many organs, including the kidneys, eyes, heart, blood vessels, and nerves. If not managed appropriately, diabetic pets can suffer from profound hypoglycemia or diabetic ketoacidosis, which are dangerous emergency situations.
  • Arthritis — The excess weight carried by overweight pets overloads their joints, and damages the cartilage, which eventually results in arthritis. Inflammatory cells produced by visceral fat also damage all joints in the pet’s body, exacerbating the problem.
  • High blood pressure — Obese pets are at higher risk for high blood pressure. This condition leads to many concerning health problems, including:
    • Stroke — The increased pressure damages the arteries supplying the brain, leading to these vessels becoming blocked or bursting.
    • Kidney failure — Damage also occurs to the kidney’s blood supply, and the kidney cells cannot function appropriately. 
    • Congestive heart failure — Excess pressure is put on the heart to pump blood throughout the body, and can eventually lead to congestive heart failure.
    • Retinal degeneration — The increased pressure damages the retinal blood supply, leading to degeneration. Retinal detachment can also occur, resulting in blindness.

Obesity contributes to several other health conditions, including pancreatitis, respiratory diseases, heart disease, urinary tract disorders, gastrointestinal disease, and chronic skin conditions. 

Preventing pet obesity

Preventing obesity is the best way a responsible pet owner can help their four-legged friend have a long, healthy life. Take these steps, to ensure your pet stays at an ideal weight:

  • Regular veterinary attention — Have your pet evaluated by our veterinary professionals at least once a year to assess their weight, and check for any underlying medical issues that could cause weight gain. Metabolic disorders, such as hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease, can result in pets gaining weight when they are eating an appropriate diet. These conditions can be managed to help counteract the detrimental effects. 
  • Regular monitoring — Weigh your pet regularly, and check their body condition using a body condition scoring (BCS) system. Ideally, you should easily be able to feel, but not see, your pet’s ribs, and your pet’s waist should be evident when viewed from the top and side. BCS is based on four criteria:
    • How easily you can feel your pet’s ribs
    • The obvious visibility of your pet’s waist and abdominal tuck
    • How much excess fat is beneath your pet’s skin
    • The amount of your pet’s muscle mass
  • Appropriate diet — Research products, to find an appropriate diet for your pet, and ask our veterinary professionals to help you decide on your pet’s best diet. Follow the product’s feeding guide as a starting point, but you may need to adjust the food amount depending on your pet’s age, neuter status, breed, and lifestyle. You also can use calorie calculators to help determine your pet’s nutritional requirements.
  • Appropriate measuring — Weigh your pet’s food portions using kitchen scales, so you know the correct amount to feed. Always use a measuring cup, and do not estimate the food amount, to avoid overfeeding.
  • Exercise — Ensure your pet gets regular physical activity. Your goal should be about 20 minutes twice per day. You will need to gradually work up to this activity level, if your pet is not currently physically fit. 
  • Treats — Treats should account for no more than 10 percent of your pet’s daily calorie intake. When you treat your pet, adjust their meals to ensure you do not exceed their overall recommended calorie intake. Choose healthy treat options, such as carrots, broccoli, and bananas, to avoid treats containing excess sodium and preservatives.

Preventing obesity will safeguard your pet from several dangerous health conditions. If you would like your pet’s weight assessed, or if you need help determining an appropriate diet, do not hesitate to contact our Fear Free team at Westerville Veterinary Clinic, to schedule an appointment.