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  • Writer's pictureMindy Schwartz

Fat Pets: Obesity in Companion Animals

A health crisis for humans & companion animals

Obesity has become a major global health problem in both the human and companion animal populations. It is estimated that between 50% and 60% of pet dogs are obese. If your dog or cat has a weight problem, there’s a lot you can do to help.

Define Obesity Please

Obesity is itself considered a disease, one in which “excessive body weight has accumulated to the point where health is adversely affected” (O’Connell, et. al., 2018). And it’s the most common disease seen in pets today.

Our dog Nicky, before her weight loss plan

Recently, as we (humans) have begun to eat more processed foods and fat and lead more sedentary lives, we have passed these habits on to our pets. So in addition to the traditional definition, there’s also a correlation between owner attitudes regarding food and exercise and the weight of their pets (Endenburg,, 2018)

Is it really serious?

If your pet is overweight, you should start looking into ways to address the problem, before health issues become more complicated. There are loads of health risks associated with obesity include orthopedic diseases such as hip dysplasia, osteoarthritis, and cruciate ligament disease. Metabolic diseases such as diabetes mellitus and hyperadrenocorticism, are also often seen in obese pets, as are urogenital diseases, cardiorespiratory diseases and a possible increased risk of cancer (Boland, 2014).

So, what should we do?

While there are many causes for obesity including genetic and behavioral issues, there is only one solution, reducing calorie intake and increasing activity. There are several proven diet plans that include the use of commercially available weight management food.

High Protein Diets

An international study, that included veterinary practices from 27 countries in 3 global regions reviewed commercially prepared high protein high fiber weight-loss diets. The 926 dogs in this study were fed dry food, wet food or a combination of the two, depending on the preference of the owner and the dog. Weight loss was seen in 96.8% of the dogs, while 15% maintained a stable weight. As the dogs’ weight decreased, their activity level and quality of life increased (Flanagan,, 2017).

Multi-Prong Approach

Another study, of an overweight 7-year-old, neutered Labrador Retriever who had orthopedic surgery to repair a right cranial cruciate ligament injury showed similar results. When the dog was fed weight management adult dry dog food which was measured carefully according to a calculation of the number of calories needed to lower his weight, he lost 1% to 2% of his body weight each week.

The plan also included using a food puzzle to distract the dog while eating, and a reduction in the number of treats provided. When the dog neared a healthy weight, the ration was calculated to include a maintenance number of calories provided by both food and treats (Linder, 2016).

New Weight Management Food method

As the prevalence of obesity grows there have been several studies performed to evaluate new weight management food. One study evaluated 162 overweight or obese dogs who were otherwise healthy. Before beginning, researchers asked these pet owners' about their dogs' quality of life.

The food in this study, referred to as “New Weight Management Food” (NWMF) was designed as a reduced-calorie, reduced fat, increased fiber food containing a synergistic blend of ingredients and nutrients based on nutrigenomic technology. This food was formulated for both weight loss and long-term weight maintenance.

Dogs in this study lost an average of 1.5% of their body weight each week and showed a significant improvement in the quality of life, as observed by the pets’ owners (Christmann,, 2015).

If you decide to take action

Check-in with a pet nutritionist or your vet, to make sure that your pet’s new regimen is balanced and contain all required nutrients while reducing the calorie intake. It’s important that your food/exercise plan should be convenient and easy for both you and your pet to follow.

Veterinarians have a responsibility to educate their clients about the problems that can result from their pets’ excess weight, though this may require a longer visit. Take advantage of the time you have with your vet to discuss your pet’s weight. Veterinarians should keep an eye on your pet’s weight over time and recommend activities that can assist with weight loss if needed.

Following a healthy diet plan should improve the quality of life for you both, please make sure to reach out to me if you have any questions!

Nicky, after!

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