Obesity is the most common problem seen in pets today. Consuming excess calories, beyond that which is needed to maintain the pets present weight, will lead to obesity. Most veterinarians agree that a pet, which is greater than 20% of its breed standard weight, is considered obese. Bad habits, practiced by their owners, are the leading cause for diet failures. Obesity results in an increased risk to cancers, musculo-skelatal injuries, cardiovascular problems, as well as skin and haircoat problems. For these reasons it is best to establish a new healthier feeding routine for your pet.
Approximately 10% of the daily calories taken in are used to digest the food. Roughly 20% of the daily calories are burned during exercise or activity periods. The remaining 70% of the calories consumed are spent maintaining the resting metabolism of the pet. The automatic functions, such as breathing, the heartbeat, kidney and liver functions as well as maintaining the body’s heat are all considered to be part of the bodies basic metabolic rate. This clearly indicates that metabolism is the primary consumer of calories burned while exercise burns relatively few calories by comparison.
While genetic predisposition does play an important role in the susceptibility towards obesity, eating too many calories is the final determining factor. If there has been a significant change in the exercise routine then only a minor adjustment is needed to offset the calorie impact and resultant weight gain. If, however, there is even a small change in the basic metabolism, for example a change in the thyroid output, then a significant reduction in the calorie intake is necessary to avoid a weight gain.
One of the most commonly asked questions of veterinarians concerns how much to feed their pet. The answer depends on many different variables. The bottom line is, if your pet is gaining too much weight, then regardless of how little your pet is being fed or what type of food he/she is being fed, you are overfeeding your pet! Start by accurately recording how much your pet is presently consumes in a 24-hour period. Next, reduce the amount of daily calories fed by 10%, 15%, or even 20%. There are legitimate diet foods available at most animal hospitals that can provide a significantly reduced calorie content and yet provide adequate nutrients and bulk. Continued reductions have to be made until you see a weight loss occurring.
As is the case with humans, diet programs should be under the guidance of a doctor (veterinarian). Ultimately, it is the owner’s responsibility to do the right thing and avoid overfeeding their pets.