Feline and canine obesity: a sizable issue

     Although we often talk jokingly about it, obesity in our pets is a serious condition that should not be taken lightly. Think about it for a moment. When we take 5 pounds ourselves, we feel bloated and uncomfortable. For a person of about 175 lbs, that represents barely 2% of its weight. Conversely, for Fido, your chocolate Labrador weighing 80lbs, that's 6% of his weight. For Lola, the small shih tzu of 20 lbs, that represents 25% of her weight. And what about Pacha the 14lbs cat ... It's about 35% of his weight. That is enormous! And this excess weight has major consequences on their health.

Medical consequences of obesity:

Here are just some of the consequences of obesity on your pet's health:

* As a greater load is placed on the joints, they become damaged more quickly over time, causing arthritis pain. Stress is also inflicted on the ligaments, including the well-known Cranial Cruciate Ligament that can rupture and require delicate and expensive surgical interventions.

* Abdominal fat deposits around different organs and alters normal function. As in humans, excess fat can lead to impaired blood flow leading to heart problems.

* Obesity predisposes to various diseases, such as urinary tract obstruction in the male cat, hepatic lipidosis (liver damage) and diabetes.

* In addition, an obese animal often has difficulty properly grooming itself, which can lead to skin issues. 

Keeping our animals at a healthy weight is just as important as having them sterilized, vaccinated and examined every year.



Evaluating your pet’s body score:

But how do we determine that our animal has a weight overload? There is no ideal weight for each breed. The size of an animal depends mainly on its genetics (both parents and grandparents). Your dog can be the biggest of its range, without necessarily being obese. However, there are certain criteria to evaluate in order to attribute a body score to an animal, which can be grades on a scale of 1 to 9. 

The ideal animal has a rating of 5/9. You can palpate its ribcage and count each one of its ribs, with a thin layer of fat covering them. Its flanks dig slightly inwards and its buttocks have a thin greasy covering. In an animal slightly overweight, it is difficult to feel the ribs and there is no depression in the flanks. In the obese animal (so with a body score of more than 8/9), the flanks are bulging outwards and a ring of fat can be felt at the base of the tail.

It is important to properly identify your animal’s body score and determine the weight it should lose. This can be assessed with the help of your veterinarian or your animal health technician, and will help in tracking its weight loss.

Tips in losing the extra pounds

Here are some tips that might help you manage the weight loss of your pet. We did not reinvent the wheel ... The secret of losing weight is not so secret! You have to consume less and spend more. Therefore, the first step is to make sure that the number of calories you give your pet is adequate. Warning! It does not just mean reducing the amount of food available! By simply restricting the food intake of a regular diet, it is possible to cause nutrient deficiencies in your pet if the food is not suitable for weight control. It is therefore best to consult your veterinarian to find out which food is best for your pet. Also, do not forget to include in your calculations the treats you give each day! These are often very caloric. If you are used to giving 4 treats per day, why not decrease to one, but break it into 4 pieces in order to still treat your pet 4 times during the day. Your pet will not see the ruse and believe it has received its 4 usual treats. Also, many vegetables can be used as treats, such as small pieces of carrot, pepper or celery. Warning! Never give onions, garlic, shallots, leeks or grapes, which can be toxic. Also, to create an effect of satiety (the feeling of being full) in your animal, divide its daily quantity of food on 2 or 3 meals. Food distributors of the «all you can eat» type are not recommended. The speed of food intake should also be slowed down. Different types of toys can help with this, such as Pipolino and Stimulo found in pet stores, which stimulate the animal mentally while it is eating, slows down the food intake and creates an energy output. By eating less quickly, the brain has time to send a message of satiety to the animal, reducing the feeling of hunger. Finally, get your pet moving! It has to spend the calories it has in excess. For a very obese animal and / or with joint disorders, low impact activities are to be favored. Long walks or swimming, if you have access to a water source, are the ideal options to protect the joints. Otherwise, throwing the ball or frisbee is not only good for their health, but also for your relationship with your pet. With the cat, using the laser pointer can be both an exercise for him and an entertainment for you. 


A myth that needs to be tossed is that a sterilized animal will necessarily gain weight. It is true that the metabolism of a sterilized animal will be slower than that of an intact animal. This difference is however minimal. If the diet is controlled and the level of activity is adequate, your pet will maintain its hourglass shape. If, despite all your good wishes and those of your vet, your pet can not lose weight, there may be an underlying problem. There are diseases that can cause your pet to be overweight. Thus, various medical tests could be proposed to you to determine the origin of the obesity of your animal. Remember, it's easier to maintain a healthy weight early in your mate's life than to lose weight later! So, it is better to establish good habits of life from the beginning, for them, as for you!