We all want to be kind to our pets and reward them or show affection in return for their good behavior and unconditional companionship. In some cases, this manifests itself as giving multiple treats and/or table scraps. In some cases the food intake is simply too large. This can actually be detrimental to your pet.
One myth regarding obesity is that spayed or neutered animals become overweight due to inactivity. Spayed or neutered (altered) animals tend to burn less calories during rest when compared to intact animals due to a decreased resting metabolic rate. The loss of hormones (estrogen and androgens) decreases undesirable behaviors such as roaming and sexual behavior but has no effect on day-to-day activity levels.
With the proper diet and exercise, animals that have been altered can maintain an appropriate weight.
The first step in controlling obesity is identifying that it exists in your pet. Dogs tend to carry their fat behind the front legs, along the back and tail base. Cats carry their fat along the lower abdomen, in the abdomen and in the face. A body condition score (BCS) is used as classification. The scale ranges from 1 to 5. A score of 1 would be a very thin animal with prominent ribs and spine. A score of 2 is an underweight animal with minimal fat cover. A score of 3 is ideal. The ribs can be felt but not seen. There is a slight abdominal tuck (waist). Scores 4 and 5 signify overweight and obese, respectively. The ribs are difficult to feel and no waist can be seen.
Approximately 25% of animals are overweight or obese. Obesity can have devastating effects on the skeletal system (arthritis, cranial cruciate ligament tears and ruptures, etc.), as well as stimulate cardiovascular disease and endocrine disorders (diabetes). Fat in the abdomen can make breathing labored. Overweight animals have increased anesthetic complications. Decreased heat tolerance and stamina due to obesity make increasing activity difficult. There is increased incidence of bladder cancer in overweight animals. Overweight cats that stop eating are susceptible to fatty liver (hepatic lipidosis).
Your veterinarian can work with you to develop a weight loss plan for your pet. If your pet is overweight it is critical to monitor the caloric intake he/she receives from their food and the amount of treats and table scraps given. This is especially important when there are many individuals feeding the animal. It may be necessary to designate one person to feed the animal or hang a check-off sheet near the food dish. The first step is to eliminate table scraps and reduce treats. Low calorie treats are available or raw baby carrots, apple slices, celery and other vegetables are acceptable alternatives. Small amounts of boiled lean beef or chicken can be given occasionally if someone in the house insists on giving the pet people foods. A high quality pet food is essential.
Don't forget about exercise! Exercise your animal 20 - 60 minutes daily by leash walking or equivalent. Swimming is a great activity for pets.
(The kcal per cup of your pet's food should be listed on the package label.) Feed the number of cups needed to equal the recommended daily kcal - best if fed in 2 or 3 small meals throughout the day.
Michigan Humane Society Veterinary Clinics