Long-Term Impact of Obesity in Pets

An epidemic of pet obesity is upon us, and it seems to be getting worse. Scholars who have studied the effects of poor nutrition and a sedentary lifestyle on our pets have found that more than half the dog and cat population are either overweight or obese.

The long-term effects of excessive weight gain can begin while our pets are still pups and kittens. And not surprisingly, the consequences of obesity can be as dire for cats and dogs as they are for the humans who care for them.

How bad is it? According to research from 2014 by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, nearly 58 percent of cats are either overweight or obese. Dogs aren’t far behind: nearly 53 percent are overweight or obese. And those numbers are higher than they were in earlier studies.

Another interesting tidbit from research by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention: The vast majority of people who own obese pets, when initially asked, thought their furry companions were in the normal weight range. That suggests that we’re not very attuned to what our pets should weigh.

In dogs, a weight increase of 5% can put them at risk for weight-related health problems and when our pets carry extra baggage on those four legs, the long-term effects can be legion.

Diabetes. This condition affects your pet’s ability to process glucose, a form of sugar, in its bloodstream. Signs include excessive thirst, a seemingly insatiable appetite and frequent urination, often in inappropriate locations.

Osteoarthritis. Sometimes referred to as “lameness,” this crippling degeneration of your pet’s joints can cause difficulty in standing from a prone position, trouble climbing stairs, persistent limping and a lower tolerance for exercise.

Exercise intolerance. Predictably, the load of extra weight your pet is carrying may reduce its ability to do exactly what it needs: Get moving.

The long-term health effects to an overweight or obese cat or dog can exacerbate additional health-related issues such as cardiorespiratory problems, constipation and dermatitis.

As pet owners, we want our dogs and cats to live their best day every day.   Maintaining a healthy weight can help improve your pet’s overall quality of life.

Tips to Take Away

  • Paying attention to your pet’s weight is part of responsible pet care. Start prevention of weight gain when your pet is young.
  • Assess your dog or cat’s body condition score quarterly – Royal Canin provides guidance on pet weight assessment and tracking.
  • Minimize health risks by maintaining your dog or cat’s ideal weight through calorie control and regular exercise.
For Further Reading about Pet Obesity: