Obesity in our pets is as severe a problem as it is in people in the United States. In fact, October 7 is the ninth annual National Pet Obesity Awareness Day. We will join with other veterinarians around the country in a survey to evaluate what percentage of our patients we see that day are overweight or obese.
The Association for Prevention of Pet Obesity has a lot of great information on its website, www.petobesityprevention.org, including the results of last year’s survey. Over 52% of the dogs and almost 58% of the cats were evaluated being overweight or obese. The primary challenge is that pet owners are not aware their pet is obese, so step one to solving the problem, is realizing there is a problem. That’s where veterinarians come in.
Weighing a pet every visit and recording that weight is a very important part of the medical history. Watching weight trends can be very informative; we can celebrate intentional weight changes and investigate unintentional weight changes. The next step in evaluating a pet’s physique is assigning a body condition score or BCS. There are two scales used in veterinary medicine, one has a range of 1-7, 4-5 being ideal, 6-8 being too heavy. The other has a range of 1-5, 3 being ideal, 4 is overweight and 5 is obese. These charts are available online and can help you tell if your pet needs to lose a little weight. There are 3 main criteria in establishing BCS. Can you feel the ribs, but not see them? (If your pet has long hair, it needs to be wet to tell if you can see the ribs.) Does your pet have a waist when looking down from above? Looking at your pet from the side, is there an “abdominal tuck” this means does the abdomen make tuck in from the ribs to the pelvis?
Once we established a pet is overweight, what next? Well, sadly I don’t have a secret, easy fix. Just like people, to lose weight the calories out have to exceed the calories in. The pet obesity awareness website has great information including daily caloric needs for different body weights and how many calories are in popular pet treats.
One of my favorite things to do is to use crunchy veggies for treats. Green beans, broccoli and cauliflower are great options. Redirecting a pet when they are begging to a physical activity is a good strategy to burn calories and not add calories. Feeding measured amounts of food is a good first step. A measuring cup and a Big Gulp cup are not the same. I have learned to ask people when they tell me they only give their dog 2 cups of food a day to ask what kind of cup are they using. If measuring the food doesn’t do the trick, you may want to try a prescription weight loss diet.
Regular weigh-ins help you know if you are on the right track. We love it when our patients come in to visit us and get their weigh in. We enter their weight in their chart and celebrate their success, with a pat, not a cookie.
If you want to be a part of Pet Obesity Awareness Day, go to their website and sign up, or come in and see us on October 7. If you haven’t been in for a visit in a while, stop by and see our remodel. Our dog scale is right by the door, right next to the refreshment center.
Check us out on Facebook, visit our website www.wildernessvet.com, or call us if you have any questions or comments. We’d love to hear from you!