Saturday, May 10, 2014

Overweight and Obese Pets

You just made the most delicious meatballs and spaghetti. You serve it to your family for dinner. Then you leave the rest on the kitchen table for the next 24 hours. Why would I do such a silly thing; you ask.

Why would you leave a full food bowl out all the time for your pet? Leaving food out all the time is a big mistake! It makes your dog or cat FAT.

An estimated 52.6% of US dogs are overweight or obese.

An estimated 57.6% of US cats are overweight or obese.

"But he hardly eats anything, Doc." "I never see him eating." "He needs to eat." I hear this at least once every few weeks. Did you realize a 12 pound Yorkie is the same as an average female weighing 218 pounds and a 14 pound cat is equivalent to a 237 pound man?

Did you know that a 90 pound female Labrador retriever is equal to a 186 pound, 5’ 4” female or 217 pound, 5’ 9” male? A fluffy feline that weighs 15 pounds is equal to a 218 pound 5’ 4” female or 254 pound 5’ 9” male?

Dogs and cats should not be compared to human needs or calories.

Here is a calorie comparison for dogs and cats versus humans:

Daily Caloric Needs for Average Indoor Pets


10 lbs.

180 to 200 calories


10 lbs.

200 to 275 calories

20 lbs.

325 to 400 calories

50 lbs.

700 to 900 calories

Daily Caloric Needs for Active Humans


2500 Calories


2000 Calories

Obesity is a nutritional disease which is defined by an excess of body fat. Dogs or cats that are over nourished lack the ability to exercise, or that have a tendency to retain weight are at risk for becoming obese. Obesity can result in serious adverse health effects, such as reducing the lifespan of an affected dog or cat, even if the pet is only moderately obese. Multiple areas of the body are affected by excess body fat, including the bones and joints, the digestive organs, and the organs responsible for breathing capacity.

There are several causes of obesity. The most common cause is an imbalance between the energy intake and its usage; that is, the cat is eating more calories than it can possibly expend. Obesity also becomes more common in old age because of the normal decreases in a pet's ability to exercise. Unhealthy eating habits, such as high-calorie foods, an alternating diet, and frequent treats can also bring on this condition. You can literally kill your dog or cat with "kindness".

Treatment for obesity is focused on weight loss and maintaining a decreased body weight for the long term. This is accomplished by reducing caloric intake and increasing your dog's time spent exercising. Your veterinarian will most likely have a prepared diet plan that you can use to calculate your pet's eating schedule, or will help you to create a long-term diet plan for your pet.

At this hospital, we have several weight reducing diets. Some are considered "deprivation" diets, while others slightly increase the metabolic rate, with healthy ingredients. Use whatever works, but under the supervision of your veterinarian. Most all prescription diets work. Many of the marketed "over-the-counter" diets do not work as well. Take responsibility for feeding your pet. I have never seen a dog or cat make him or herself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, no matter what time it was. Your pet eats only what you allow him or her to eat.
The follow-up treatment for obesity includes communicating regularly with your veterinarian about the weight reduction program, monthly monitoring of your pet's weight, and establishing a life-time weight maintenance program once your pet's ideal body condition score has been achieved. With a firm commitment to your pet's health and weight, you will feel confident that your pet is eating healthy and feeling its best. 
The Providence Veterinary Hospital Blog is a publication of Peter Herman, VMD, at the Providence Veterinary Hospital, 2400 Providence Ave. in Chester, PA. Contact Dr. Herman at 610-872-4000 or visit us at