Obesity of pets in the United States is a huge problem, no pun intended. It’s difficult to find exact numbers, but some estimate that up to 35% of our dogs and cats are obese. The World Health Organization also estimates that 35% of adult humans in the U.S. are also obese. These numbers are staggering and the health implications of pet and human obesity are alarming.
Why should I be concerned about my pet’s weight?
We know that fat isn’t just extra weight on the joints and padding around the organs. Fat tissue is an active organ, producing substances that alter hunger signals to the brain, decrease sensitivity to insulin and increase inflammation throughout the body. Because of this, obese pets are at a higher risk for a variety of conditions, including, but not limited to arthritis, diabetes, liver disease and respiratory disease. Studies have shown that obese pets get diseases earlier in life and live a shorter life than their thin counterparts. Decreasing calorie intake by only 25% increased life expectancy and delayed onset of disease.
How do I know if my pet is overweight?
During every exam of every patient we see, we determine a body condition score (BCS). An ideal BCS is 3 out of 5. At this BCS, the ribs can be felt easily while running your fingers across the chest, there will be an indent at the waist, and a tuck up under the belly just in front of the legs.
Insert BCS chart here.
I think that monitoring the BCS is the easiest way to tell if your pet is overweight, underweight, or ideal because it accounts for variations in size and bone structure of your individual pet.