Recent research from the Association for Prevention of Pet Obesity shows that 59% of dogs and 61% of cats in the United States are overweight or obese. For the average pet owner, this means that, statistically, your pet is more likely overweight than a lean, healthy weight. Many pet owners fail to recognize their pet’s extra pounds, because they aren’t educated about what constitutes a healthy body condition, or they struggle to refuse constantly begging pets and change their habits. 

The Providence Vet team wants to educate pet owners about pet obesity risks and to provide the necessary tools to achieve weight loss success. Here are the top five conditions associated with pet obesity and how they could affect your pet’s future.

#1: Arthritis in obese pets

Arthritis and obesity are closely linked health conditions, because each can worsen the other. Obese pets may develop arthritis because of mechanical stresses on their joints, and because increased systemic inflammation stems from excess fat tissue. As their joints degenerate, they become less active and favor their painful limbs. Disuse leads to muscle atrophy, increased pain, and continued weight gain, which continues in a downward spiral until the pet is extremely debilitated. The single most important aspect of arthritis management is weight control, and keeping pets at a healthy, lean weight throughout their lives can lower their arthritis development chances, delay the onset, or reduce severity.

#2: Diabetes in obese pets

Diabetes can strike any pet who is genetically predisposed to the disease, but the likelihood of development increases substantially for overweight pets. This is especially true for obese cats, who are three times more likely to develop diabetes than healthy weight cats, but weight loss and a specialized diet can reverse diabetes in some cats and improve control in other cats and dogs. Diabetes can result in many long-lasting health complications and become life-threatening, which emphasizes the importance of prevention.

#3: High blood pressure in obese pets

High blood pressure (i.e., hypertension) is often a primary problem in people but occurs secondary to another disease in most pets. Obesity is one of several hypertension risk factors, which also include several endocrine disorders and kidney disease. Hypertension can damage major organs, including the brain, eyes, kidneys, and heart, and can potentially cause blindness or shorten your pet’s life.

#4: Kidney disease in obese pets

Kidney disease has many possible causes, including obesity-related hypertension and inflammatory conditions. When kidneys do not function well, waste products can build up in the blood, causing nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and bad breath. The disease is typically progressive and will continue to worsen over months to years, but early detection and dietary management may reduce the disease impact on individual pets, and also control risk factors.

#5: Cancer in obese pets

Studies show that increased inflammation caused by excess fat (i.e. adipose) tissue leads to an increased risk for many cancer types, most commonly those that begin in the abdominal cavity. A cancer prognosis varies depending on tumor type and behavior, but cancer in general is the leading cause of death in older dogs and cats. Maintaining a healthy weight is one way that you can within reason control your pet’s cancer risk.

Tips and tricks for pet weight management success

Managing your pet’s weight starts with recognizing the problem and acknowledging the associated health risks. Weight evaluation is one reason why your pet should receive annual wellness exams, because they are the best time to discuss overall health and nutrition. Once our team rules out underlying diseases that could cause weight gain and addresses any secondary problems, such as joint pain, we will prescribe a weight loss program. Here are some tips to help the program stick:

  • Switch to your pet’s new veterinarian-recommended diet slowly to avoid increasing hunger or upsetting their stomach.
  • Swap high-calorie treats for low-energy-density but highly nutritious snacks, such as crunchy vegetables.
  • Distract your pet who is begging for food with another enjoyable activity, such as a walk, or a grooming or play session. 
  • Ensure the whole household is on board with your pet’s proposed diet and routine changes.
  • Build exercise duration slowly and avoid extreme heat or cold. Choose indoor activities, such as supervised swimming at a local rehabilitation facility, during inclement weather.

Maintaining your pet at a healthy weight, which you can achieve with high-quality nutrition and regular, low-impact exercise, is vital to protect their overall health. The Providence Vet experts can help you choose and implement the right diet for your four-legged friend’s individual needs and stand by your side throughout the process. Contact us to schedule a weight evaluation, physical examination, and weight consultation with our pet health experts.