Pet Obesity is a Huge and Growing Problem

October draws awareness to pet obesity (National Pet Obesity Awareness Day is October 10).The Texas Veterinary Medical Association (TVMA) is urging pet owners to recognize that one of the most important things they can do for their pet’s overall health is to keep them within a healthy weight range, as it reduces associated health risks.

Unfortunately, the rate of pet obesity in the U.S. has increased, according to recent survey results from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), with an estimated 56 percent of dogs and 60 percent of cats clocking in as overweight or obese.

When a pet is overweight or obese, they’re at a higher risk for many health issues, including respiratory compromise, diabetes, skin problems, heart disease and reduced lifespan. “Studies have shown that dogs that are kept at a healthy weight have a longer average lifespan than dogs that are overweight,” said Celeste Treadway, DVM, a TVMA member who practices as a small animal relief veterinarian in Austin, Texas. “More importantly, pets that are kept lean have improved activity levels and quality of life.”

Pets aren’t in charge of what goes into their food bowls. It’s up to pet owners to ensure that they’re feeding a nutritionally balanced and responsible diet. But avoiding obesity doesn’t just happen at mealtime. Owners should also ensure that their pets are engaging in physical activity so they stay fit and healthy. Some tips for battling the bulge in pets include:

•    Slow down the eating process by feeding a larger-sized kibble that allows pets to chew rather than swallow quickly.
•    Just as with humans, treats are extra calories! Rather than high-calorie packaged treats, consider snacking smarter by offering frozen or canned green beans, baby carrots, steamed zucchini, seedless watermelon, chopped apple or pieces of unflavored rice cakes.
•    Owners should aim to take a brisk daily walk with their dogs. As a bonus, you both reap the health benefits! Owners can give cats an opportunity for exercise by playing with a laser pointer or placing the cat food bowl on an elevated surface so they will need to climb or jump to reach their meal (provided they don’t have arthritis).
•    Partner with your veterinarian. “Your family veterinarian can help you determine how much weight your pet needs to lose and assist you in developing a diet and exercise plan that will be effective, safe and fun for both you and your pet,” Dr. Treadway said.

As in all matters concerning your pet’s health, your veterinarian is your best ally to ensure a long and healthy life for your pet. While the subject can be uncomfortable, don’t be afraid to start the conversation about your pet’s weight with your veterinarian. For more information about pet obesity and its risks, visit