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cat on scaleWhen you think of pets in the United States, do you think of malnutrition? Probably not! But an estimated 59% of pet cats and 53% of pet dogs in the United States suffer from malnutrition in the form of OBESITY. Personally where I practice, I’d estimate that 70% of cats and 60% of dogs are overweight to obese.

Pets with excess weight live an average of 2 to 2.5 years less than their lean counterparts. That’s a sizeable portion of a pet’s life. Overweight to obese pets have a higher risk for various kinds of cancer, now the #1 cause of euthanasia in senior dogs and #2 in senior cats.

Heavy dogs and cats have an increased risk for orthopedic injury especially rupture of a cranial cruciate ligament. (It’s called an “ACL injury” in a person.) Arthritis is worse and begins to show outwardly in pets an average of 2 years earlier if they are overweight or obese.

Perhaps the greatest risk for cats carrying excessive body weight is the development of type 2 diabetes. I see this disease commonly in practice and rarely in lean cats. If you can’t stand the idea of giving your pet cat insulin injections twice per day, please keep her lean.

Pets also develop high blood pressure more often if obese. Heart and respiratory issues are affected by weight. Dog and cat breeds with altered respiratory anatomy (pugs, bull dogs, Persians, Himalayans, exotic shorthairs) have increased respiratory effort to begin with, and it’s greatly worsened by obesity.

Excess weight is bad for your pet. Your pet will live a shorter life with a lesser quality of life if obese. The great news is that it is completely within your power to reverse it. Please speak to your veterinarian about different strategies for weight loss and long term maintenance of a healthy body condition for your pet.  

Dr. Kelly Kasum is an associate veterinarian at East Towne Veterinary Clinic. Dr. Kelly has practiced general small animal medicine and surgery in Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin.