Obesity is the excessive accumulation of body fat in an individual. It is the most common form of malnutrition in pets and it can have profound negative effects on body function.
More than half of U.S. dogs and cats are overweight or obese. 53% of dog and 55% of cats are overweight in the U.S. The prevalence of obese dogs increased almost 37 percent between 2007 and 2011, while the prevalence of obese cats increased more than 90 percent.*
Causes of Cat and Dog Obesity
Obesity develops when energy intake, calories, consistently exceeds daily energy expenditure. Undoubtedly there are numerous environmental and social factors that contribute to the formation of obesity. These include decreased daily exercise as a result of confinement to the house and overfeeding. Snacks and treats often contribute to excess daily caloric intake. Other factors that contribute to obesity:
- Easy access to food. Do you feed your pet or do you feed the bowl?
- Energy dense, palatable food
- Multiple pets in the house. Cats and dogs may compete over the food bowl, or the human attention. This can promote begging behaviors and/or overeating.
- Spaying and neutering. It has been shown that spaying and neutering, especially male cats, will decrease activity but increase appetite. Preventing obesity after having your pets spayed or neutered is much easier than losing the weight after it is gained.
- Genetics- Some dog breeds are predisposed to obesity, such as Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, cocker spaniels, beagles, ect.
- An underlying disease. Less the 5% of cat and dog obesity is attributed to an underlying disease. However, you should consult your veterinarian prior to starting a weight loss plan.
Health Risks of Being Obese
Cats and dogs that carry excessive body weight are obese. Obesity can lead to or exacerbate cardiovascular disease, constipation (especially in cats), skin disease, cause of insulin resistance leading to diabetes, cause of joint stress and destruction leading to painful osteoarthritis and reduced mobility (as leading cause of euthanasia in dogs) and is associated with lower urinary tract disease, urinary incontinence and bladder stones. Obesity increases your cat or dog’s anesthetic risk and can shorten your cat or dog’s life.
Staying lean is the best preventive medicine! Maintaining an ideal body condition throughout life is the only nutritional method that has been shown to prevent disease and increase longevity.