Though a little excess weight seems harmless, obesity can be a life-threatening condition for your pet. Obesity in pets can lead to osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, heart and respiratory disease, kidney disease, cranial cruciate ligament injury, and many forms of cancer. With obesity is on the rise for both humans and their pets, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) has published guidelines for veterinary practitioners to use in managing your pet’s weight.
Why did AAHA develop the Weight Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats?
AAHA developed the weight management guidelines to better combat the rise in pet obesity. Just like with people, maintaining an optimal weight for our pets contributes to a healthier life. This means our pets have more energy, live longer, and participate more fully in the activities they enjoy with you. The guidelines are a resource for veterinarians to raise awareness, educate pet owners, and make it easier to address weight management with patients.
My pet isn’t fat—do I need to worry about his weight?
Actually, up to 59 percent of dogs and cats are carrying excess weight, making it the most common nutritional disorder identified in veterinary practice. Your pet may be overweight, but you may not realize it. In one study of pet owners with dogs clinically defined as “overweight,” 30 percent of pet owners thought that their dogs were at an acceptable weight. Carrying excess weight may not sound like a big deal, but it has been shown to be associated with skin and respiratory disorders, as well as renal dysfunction. It also increases the risk of orthopedic disease, some types of cancer, and metabolic and endocrine disorders, such as diabetes.
What can I do to help control my pet’s weight?
Weight management starts with you! The guidelines offer suggestions to help both pet owners and veterinarians manage pets’ weight:
- Ask your veterinarian for a nutritional recommendation on what type of food is best for your pet given his lifestage and lifestyle considerations.
- Use interactive rewards (such as chasing a ball, tugging with a toy, etc.) rather than food rewards when training your pet.
- Your veterinarian should evaluate your pet’s body condition score (BCS) and recommend feeding adjustments as appropriate to your pet’s BCS.
- Maintain exercise and activity for your pet.
- Understand the limitations of pet food labels and feeding recommendations.
Weight management is a key part of your pet’s health. Ask your accredited veterinarian how you can work together to keep your pet healthy.