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The Risks of Pet Obesity

There are many reasons a dog might need orthopedic surgery, including a ruptured cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) or a developmental orthopedic disease, such as elbow or hip dysplasia. A pet being overweight or obese can increase the risk of needing surgery, can contribute to the development of osteoarthritis and joint pain, and can make recovery from surgery take longer.

Pet obesity is one of the leading health risks facing pets today, and it’s also one aspect of our pets’ health that pet owners can have the biggest influence on.

As of 2018, it was estimated that 60% of cats and 56% of dogs in the United States were overweight or obese, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. Overweight is defined as having a body condition score (BCS) of a 6-7 on a 9-point scale (view the Body Condition Score chart from the World Small Animal Veterinary Association). Obesity is defined as a BCS of 8-9.

When pets have an ideal body condition score, their weight is considered appropriate for their size. Their ribs should be easily palpable with minimal fat covering, and they should have a clearly defined waist.

Obesity and health

Obesity in pets doesn’t just mean they are carrying extra weight. Much like in humans, obesity in our pets is linked to numerous adverse health conditions, including osteoarthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, and decreased life expectancy. In fact, obesity is one of the primary indicators that a pet will develop osteoarthritis.

Any extra weight puts additional stress on joints, which can lead to the breakdown of cartilage and cause inflammation, swelling, and stiffness. Many large- and giant-breed dogs, such as Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, and Bulldogs are genetically predisposed to having CCL ruptures, and they are also more likely to have obesity problems. For pet owners who have one or more of these dog breeds, maintaining an ideal weight becomes even more important to help reduce the risk of CCL ruptures and the development of osteoarthritis.

In addition to putting our pets at risk for serious adverse health conditions, being overweight or obese has been shown to significantly shorten our pets’ lifespan. A longevity study from 1999 found that dogs who were fed 25% fewer calories lived an average of 2 years longer than dogs who consumed more calories. The dogs who consumed fewer calories also had fewer medical problems and required less medication compared to the control group.

If your veterinarian has indicated that your pet is overweight, it is important to take those concerns seriously. You can help your pet lose weight by gradually reducing daily caloric intake, particularly from treats, and ensuring your pet engages in regular, low-impact exercise. For dogs that are overweight and are noticeably uncomfortable or limping on walks, you might consider swimming activities or underwater treadmill therapy to reduce the pressure on joints during exercise. SOUND helps many dogs lose weight with a combination of nutritional consulting and therapeutic exercise.


Posted July 19, 2021 by Animal Surgical in Obesity, Pet Health with No Comments

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