What is obesity?

Obesity is defined as a condition where body weight is at least 15% more than ideal due to fat accumulation. This is the most common form of malnutrition, and one of the most detrimental. Fortunately it is also very treatable.

What causes obesity?

There are three main reasons why pets become overweight:

  1. Overeating – obviously! Just as people overeat because they enjoy the taste, so do dogs! Unfortunately, dogs are not heavily into self-control, so you as the owner need to restrict the amount you feed to just enough to cover your pet's energy requirements – no more!
  2. Insufficient exercise – no surprises here. The less your pet exercises, the less energy he or she is burning – hence, the less energy he or she requires from food.
  3. Decreased energy requirements – Just as people have varying metabolic rates, so do dogs. Some dogs can eat as much as they like and stay slim, whereas others face a constant struggle to maintain a healthy weight. Desexed animals have 25% lower energy requirements than intact animals. Some breeds are especially prone to obesity, including Labradors and Golden Retrievers.

In short, if your pet is overweight then they are receiving more food than they need to satisfy their energy requirements.

Why is obesity a problem?

Obesity has many adverse effects. Studies have shown that obese animals have 15-20% shorter lifespans than animals with healthy bodyweight. Common problems caused or exacerbated by obesity include:

  • Diabetes mellitus (see Information Sheet)
  • Feline lower urinary tract disease (see Information Sheet)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Neoplasia
  • Poor immunity
  • Hepatic lipidosis (fatty liver)
  • Osteoarthritis

How do I know if my pet is overweight or obese?

Because all animals have different frame sizes and body compositions, we can't specify an 'ideal weight' for any given breed. Instead, we look for the following to suggest a healthy body weight:

  • The rib cage should be easy to feel by running your hands along the sides of your pet's chest. If you have to apply any pressure to be able to feel the rib cage, your pet is overweight.
  • Similarly, you should be able to feel your pet's spine by running your hand gently along the middle of the back.
  • Your pet should have a visible 'waist' – that is, the abdomen should be narrower than the chest or the hips. If it is not, your pet is overweight.
  • Your cat should not have a prominent 'pouch' of fat hanging around the abdomen.

How can I help my pet lose weight?

The most important part of a weight loss plan is controlling food intake. Take the following steps, and come to the clinic for regular weigh-ins along the way to track your progress.

  1. Stop any family members or neighbours from feeding excessive treats. Rather than feeding once daily, feed meals half the size twice daily. This maintains the metabolism at a slightly higher rate.
  2. If you are feeding more than the recommendation on the packet of your pet's food, decrease the amount to match the recommendations.
  3. If your pet is still not losing weight, you can reduce the amount you feed to 75% of the recommendation on the food packet. Alternatively, you can skip straight to Step 4.
  4. If your pet is still not losing weight, you will need to start feeding Royal Canin Obesity Management food and follow the recommendation on the packet based on your pet's ideal weight – ask us if you are not sure what your pet's ideal weight is.
  5. Once your pet is down to the ideal weight, you may wish to continue feeding Royal Canin Weight Control diet – this is designed not for weight loss, but for maintaining a healthy weight in animals that are prone to obesity.

Of course, you should also ensure that your pet is getting adequate exercise each day.