October is Obesity Awareness Month. Obesity is becoming the leading preventable disease for death in cats and dogs. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention over 44% of US dogs and 57% of US cats are estimated to be overweight or obese.Obesity can affect many components of your pet's health, which is why Cheshire Cat Feline Health Center wants to make you aware of this important issue.
How do you know if your cat is overweight? Pet owners are often surprised when told that Kitty is not just fluffy, but overweight. Visit PetFit.com to learn about Ideal Weight.
Obesity has become one of the top health problems in the United States, not just for humans but for pets as well. Obesity in pets has similar repercussions as with humans: joint problems, diabetes mellitus, breathing issues, and decreased life span. An estimated 35% of dogs and cats in our country suffer from obesity. A common reason that owners over-feeding pets is that the owner feels a pet deserves a higher quality of life as a trade off for longevity. While this might on some level makes sense (after all, a treat makes the pet happy, right?) the consequences of obesity do not make for higher life quality in the long run.
The following are problems that overweight animals often suffer from.
Joint Problems: The over-weight animal has extra stress on joints, including the elbows, knees, hips and spine. This extra stress leads to joint degeneration and creates more pain. If the pet is in pain, they will often be less mobile, which perpetuates the weight gain. Weight management alone will decrease and can even eliminate the need for arthritis medications.
Diabetes Mellitus: Insulin is made in the body and helps to regulate blood sugar levels. Extra body fat leads to insulin resistance in cats much like it does in humans. In fact, obese cats have been found to have a 50% decrease in insulin sensitivity. Weight management is especially important in decreasing a cat's risk for the development of diabetes mellitus.
Breathing Issues: The obese pet has extra inches of fat which forms a constricting girdle around the chest. This makes the pet less able to take deep breaths. More effort is needed to move the chest muscles and therefore, the lung cannot fully inflate and coughing results. The pet may also overheat more easily.
Hepatic Lipidosis: When an overweight cat goes off food or partially off food because of illness or psychological stress, body fat is mobilized to provide calories. Unfortunately, the cat's liver was not designed to process a large amount of body fat. The high level of fat causes the liver becoming infiltrated which leads to failure. A stress that might begin as a relatively minor condition, such as a cold, becomes a life-threatening disaster.
Reduced Life Span: Animals kept on the slender side of normal live longer than their overweight counterparts and with a lower disease incidence.
Increased Surgical/Anesthetic Risk: Obesity poses an extra anesthetic risk. With overweight pets, drug dosing becomes less accurate. (It is hard to estimate a patient's lean body mass for drug dosing if it is encased in a fat suit.) Furthermore, anesthesia is inherently suppressive to respiration and adding a constrictive jacket of fat only serves to make proper air exchange more challenging. Additionally, surgery in the abdomen is made difficult by the slippery nature of the extra fat as well as impaired visualization of all the normal structures through the copious fat deposits. One never knows when a pet will require an emergency surgery (to say nothing of regular dental cleanings).
How did my cat get so fat when he doesn't really eat that much?
An indoor cat often grazes during the day. Owners often fill a bowl with dry food and allow the cat to free-feed at will. Additionally, the cat may be offered canned food and treats on top of the dry diet. It's amazing how quickly the calories add up! Also, an indoor only cat often suffers from lack of exercise.
One might think weight management might be easier for a pet than it is for a human. After all, the pet relies completely on someone else for feeding and exercise so it should follow that if the humans in control can regulate feeding and exercise, the pet should lose weight. It seems like this would be true but, as with humans, there is tremendous individuality with how different pets store the food they have eaten. Beyond this, sometimes it is hard to know what a pet is eating or the owner may not have a good sense for how much should be fed.
Here are some factors involved:
A cup of food depends on the cup: When food packages refer to a certain number of cups of kibble being appropriate for a certain body weight, they are referring to an actual measuring cup. This may seem obvious but many mugs, coffee cups, and other scooping cups may not be equal to a cup measure. If you do not have proper measuring cup, we can provide you with a free one. Even a little extra can lead to obesity. One teaspoon of kibbles is approximately 10 additional calories. Feeding one additional teaspoon per day for one year will add an additional pound to your cat!
The package guidelines are just guidelines: Many packages of food include on their label some sort of feeding schedule that indicates how much food should be fed to a pet of a certain weight. These guidelines are meant as a starting point only. Remember, pet food makers want to sell food so often their guidelines tend towards the higher end of caloric needs. Each pet is an individual and just as one person weighing 150 lbs can be obese and another person of the same weight may be skinny, the same is true of pets. If your pet is too fat on the recommended feeding schedule, then you should reduce the amount of food or change to a diet that is higher in fiber so that a satisfying volume of food can still be eaten without adding calories.
Genetics: Some animals simply have the genes that predispose them to obesity. Some pets do not burn calories efficiently; they simply have a slow metabolism. This might be genetic as mentioned or it might be the result of a disease. Testing for health problems such as these is helpful to get the best treatment for resolution of the obesity.
Underestimation of the power of treats: Many people express their affection for the pet by providing regular treats, and the pet happily obliges by begging or even performing cute behaviors. For some people, feeding treats to the pet constitutes a major part of the human-animal bond and they do not wish to give it up or reduce it. Pet treats are often high in calories, though, and four or five treats readily converts into an extra meal's worth of added fat. Free feeding of dry food encourages the pet to snack as well; meal feeding represents better calorie control.
What can be done: Diet and Exercise
There must be control over what the obese pet eats. Of course, it's easier if you have only one pet and roaming is not allowed, but trickier if there is more than one pet in the home. Use your ingenuity to feed the pets separately. For example, a smaller pet door can keep the fat can out of a restricted area, allowing the thin cat in to eat. There are microchip activated doors that restrict access as well.
Each cat responds a little differently to food changes and it is important to tailor a new feeding routine to the individual. Just feeding less of a regular diet may not be appropriate because the lowered volume may not contain all of the nutrients necessary for a healthy diet. Specially formulated diets are available through your veterinarian to aid in weight loss. Cheshire Cat Feline Health Center carries several varieties in canned and dry to suit your cat's needs and tastes.
Feed in multiple small meals. Leaving food out encourages snacking. Feeding in meals makes it easier to feed multiple pets different foods or different amounts of food.
Consider interactive toys. The wild cat will hunt for a large portion of their day and only one out of every 10-15 attempts to snare prey will be successful. This hunting activity is needs to somehow be replicated for the indoor cat. A ball that holds your cat's food and forces kitty to work for the meal can be very helpful. An inexpensive laser pointer, feather toys, cat-nip mice and more can provide additional exercise too. Shoot for 20 minutes total of exercise per day, split into small bursts of activity.
Where to start:
As an initial step in obesity management, a comprehensive physical exam and intense history should be documented. Diagnostic tests should be used to rule out health issues that might specifically cause obesity. After the initially exam and consultation, the veterinarian will formulate a plan specific to your cat.
Commit to regular weigh ins. At Cheshire Cat Feline Health Center, we are happy to schedule weigh ins, every two weeks , with a technician. Know what the goal weight is and how long it should take to reach this goal/or how to tell if the pet is on target. It is important not to try to go too fast. The goal for weight loss in a cat is usually ? to ? pound per month.
Weight loss is not a quick and easy process but the benefits are worth the effort! Call us today to schedule the first step to a healthier, happier feline!
To learn more about pet obesity schedule an appointment with us today by calling 858-483-1573.
Your friends at,
Cheshire Cat Feline Health Center