Porky & Buddy’s Pet Health: Overweight Pets

Dear Porky and Buddy,

How do I know if my pets are overweight and what should I do about it.  We all love our meals, but I want them to be healthy.


Dear Shirley.

Thanks for an honest and important question.  Many pets and their owners have one thing in common: too much food and too little exercise.   Studies have shown that 40 to 50 percent of dogs are overweight, and about 25 percent of cats

Obesity is an important health issue because it may contribute to shorter life span and increased risk of arthritis, cancer, diabetes and a need for surgery.

The causes of obesity are really simple: increased energy intake compared to decreased energy output. If your pet is overweight, he is probably particularly effective at persuading you to indulge his bad habits. Pet treats are meant to be delicious. That’s why they are called “treats.”  They are usually high in fat and calories.

You should monitor your pet’s body weight, especially if you own an older dog. A healthy pet’s body is proportional – his ribs can be felt and folds of fat aren’t easily seen. An overweight pet has a noticeable paunch, a broader conformation and ribs cannot be seen or felt easily. Fat dogs don’t have the “tuck” normally seen in front of the hindquarters. And they waddle.  Admit it.

No matter what food you give your pet, don’t overfeed and make sure your pet receives sufficient exercise to prevent obesity. Some foods are very high in fat and calories. If your pet’s becoming too fat, cut down total intake and don’t feed high-fat foods. There are special foods available both by prescription and over-the-counter that are higher in fiber and lower in caloric density.

Proper feeding is important. In general, a small six-pound dog requires 50 calories per pound, a 50-pound dog requires 30 calories per pound and a 100-pound dog requires 23 calories per pound. However, there are no hard and fast rules; your pet may need less food if he’s less active or more if he’s very active.

If your pet is overweight, work with your veterinarian to decide on and stick to a proper weight-reduction plan. Your veterinarian can help assess your pet’s obesity and weight reduction plan and determine whether there are any complicating disease concerns, such as diabetes. In some cases, a prescription type of diet may be recommended.

It’s important to realize that a healthier body weight for your pet is important, so don’t give in to your pet’s begging. To reduce your pet’s food intake, feed his normal diet in reduced amounts or a diet of reduced calories in prescribed amounts. Approximately one pound of fat is lost for every 3,500 calories expended. Feed smaller portions more often so that your pet doesn’t feel that he’s eating less. Praise and affection are important to offset your pet’s feeling of “punishment.” Don’t feed treats as rewards; use praise instead. Weight should be lost gradually, about 15 percent over a two- to three-month period for dogs. Remember that animals don’t understand dieting and they hate to be hungry, so make these changes slowly and carefully.  You don’t want your dog or cat to feel desperate about food.

In addition to a restricted diet, you need to provide your pet with gradual increased play and exercise. Make exercise fun, not strict or stressful.  And enjoy it yourself.  You might lose a few pounds too!

The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter services and assistance, fostering and adoption of animals in urgent need, humane education programs, and information and referrals to animal lovers throughout Oswego County. Our office is located at 265West First Street, Oswego, New York. Phone (315) 207-1070. Email:
[email protected] Website: www.oswegohumane.org.