As with the human population, the majority of dogs and cats in the US are overweight or obese. Overweight pets suffer many of the same maladies that humans do, like diabetes, hypertension, orthopedic problems, spinal problems, and more. Fat tissue is a very inflammatory endocrine tissue which affects the pancreas’ ability to produce insulin. The excess weight will also put more stress on your pet’s joints and spine. This stress may increase the risk of painful arthritis, joint injury and costly surgery, or spinal injury which could lead to paralysis.
So, what’s the magic formula? It’s a 3 pronged approach. (1) Test for endocrinological disorders like thyroid insufficiency or other internal disease, if appropriate. (2) Decrease the caloric intake. (3) Increase the caloric output. That means, if there is no internal medical reason for the weight gain, the answer is eating fewer calories and exercising more. Pretty simple, but really hard. As a veterinarian, I know that it’s easy for me to map out a course of care which will help your pet lose weight. The hard part is when you get home and your sweet little guy looks up at you for the treat that he is used to getting. When your vet tells you that Fluffy needs to lose weight, don’t blame the long fur. It’s not the fur…really. Work with your vet to create a plan that you can follow. As your pet begins to shed weight, you will begin to see a new Fluffy that has been captured underneath the fur. It may not always be an easy process but it will always be very much worth the effort.