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Effects of Obesity in Pets

I, Dr. Susan Keeney, am overweight. There, I've said it. Of course, that is not my real focus this month. As a veterinarian at Siena Animal Hospital, I am very aware that over HALF of my patients are overweight. Probably half of those are carrying so much extra weight they are obese. Of course, no one wants to talk about it because, just like me, many of us are (or at least feel) overweight, too.

Wednesday, October 14th is National Pet Obesity Awareness Day. So, if this sounded like an "Obesity Anonymous Meeting" with my confession, that was not my intent. I thought it would be a good reason to discuss many of the potential health risks of carrying a few extra pounds. Keep in mind, 2 pounds extra on a 10 pound Chihuahua is comparable to 30 pounds extra on a 150 pound human. So, having a 12 pound Chihuahua may mean "you have more pet to love...but less time to love him."

A very simple study done several years ago was done on two groups of Labradors. If you have a Labrador, you know how they love to eat. One group was limited to the amount of food they were allowed to consume. This group had an average life span of 14 years. The second group was allowed to eat as much as they wanted. These dogs, of course, became overweight. The scary part is that the average life span was only 12 years. Simply letting them eat too much shortened their lives by TWO WHOLE YEARS!

Of course, we are also very familiar with the complications of being overweight, and I will remind you of some of them:

Joint problems

Skin problems

Heart problems

Diabetes (especially in cats)


Sometimes, we can attribute obesity to a metabolic or hormonal imbalance, such as a low (underactive) thyroid gland or Cushings (too much natural steroids in the body), but most of the time...it is simply too many calories in and too few out.

So, please take your pets' weights seriously. If you want him or her around and as healthy as possible for as long as possible, limit and control what they eat.

Keep them on low fat, high fiber food and limit the amount that you are offering.

Feed two or three smaller meals instead of one large meal each day.

Avoid human table food and excessive treats.

Use veggies (carrots, green beans) or small pieces of fruit for treats.

Take your dog for a walk every day - good for you, too!

Play with your cat (toys,laser lights) when he or she begs for food.

Do not leave food down all the time for your pet, especially when you are gone.

Feed your cat canned food - higher protein helps them keep a healthier weight.

Feed multiple pets separately - do not allow them to 'share" food bowls.

This helps track who is eating what and how much.

This helps reduce food aggression and "hoarding" as well.

We want your pet around for a long time. You will save grief and money by not allowing your pet to over eat and keeping him or her at an ideal weight. We would be happy to discuss a weight loss plan with you at any time. Please contact us at Siena Animal Hospital if you want to keep your pet healthier and happier for longer simply by keeping them fit.