Pet Obesity Concerns

golden retriever

Obesity is a major problem for dogs and cats in the United States—in fact October 12 was National Pet Obesity Awareness Day. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, over 50% of dogs and cats are either overweight or obese. Obesity is often overlooked as a problem by pet owners, but as a veterinarian, I feel it is very important that owners understand the risk factors associated with obesity in their furry family members. Our society has become accustomed to the overweight look. The new “normal” for dogs and cats is overweight. The ideal weight animal is now often viewed as “skinny.” Additionally, with the ever-growing human-animal bond, we are seeing more obesity, since food is often viewed as a form of love. Dogs love treats, and when they give us those little eyes, how can you resist just one more treat?

If you knew what “just one more treat” could do over the years, it may help you resist. There are many risk factors associated with excessive weight in animals. The list includes many of the same risks factors seen in humans: osteoarthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart and respiratory disease, cranial cruciate ligament injury (knee injuries), kidney disease, and decreased life expectancy due to poor quality of life.

I believe that a major problem contributing to pet obesity is pet food companies feeding guidelines. In most cases, pet owners are not purposefully trying to make their animals overweight. They feed according to the guidelines, then they add in treats and dental chews and the occasional table scrap. Dogs and cats don’t need that many calories. When owners are feeding their entire daily caloric need in food, then supplementing treats, this results in weight gain and, ultimately, obesity.

We recommend dogs be fed on a daily caloric need versus based on the feeding guidelines on a bag. We are more than happy to calculate your pet’s daily caloric need based on his/her ideal body weight. We would also be happy to discuss lower calorie food options that may help your little one get to his/her ideal body weight as soon as possible, thus reducing the risk for the many above-mentioned health risks.

Drew Sullivan, DVM, Director
Medical District Veterinary Clinic

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