Obesity is a very common problem in pets. Approximately 40% of all pets are overweight. This is not just a cosmetic issue with a little extra “fluff”, obesity can be a serious problem. Just like humans, pets that are overweight suffer from illness related to their weight. The extra weight puts stress on all parts of the body. Obese animals are more likely to develop joint and mobility problems, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, breathing difficulties, high blood pressure and increased surgical and anesthetic risks.
Pets that are obese have a poorer quality of life, are more irritable and more inactive. Scientific studies have shown that dogs that are overweight live on average 2 years less than their non-overweight littermates.
So why are so many of our pets obese? In nature, animals would hunt for food. This activity consumes calories. The food that they would eat is low in carbohydrates and sugar so would produce a lower body weight. Commercial dog and cat foods are high in carbs, fat and sugar. Our pets, in general, do not receive enough exercise and consume too much food. Lifestyle, environmental toxins and diet all put stress on the liver and this compounds the problem.
Some diseases such as hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland) and Cushing’s disease (an overactive adrenal gland) can also lead to obesity. In addition, genetics and medications can play a role.
So what can we do? Feed a good commercial or balanced homemade diet that is appropriate for your pet and is not too high in carbohydrates. Provide plenty of exercise to stimulate sluggish metabolism — swimming is a great exercise for dogs and burns lots of calories. It is also easy on the joints.
The bottom line, though, is usually less calories in, and more calories out in the form of exercise!