How to tell if your pet is overweight, the 4 most common causes of obesity in pets, and how to manage their weight naturally
Sure, a pudgy kitty or pooch is cute. What's NOT cute is when your pudgy fur baby's health starts to take a toll due to them being overweight. Obesity is as much a problem in pets as it is in humans. If a person is overweight, the consequences may be serious and even fatal - the same applies to animals. If you suspect that your pet is overweight, we'll give you the 4 most common causes of pet obesity below, plus teach you how to naturally help them lose the weight!
How to tell if your pet is overweight
Many pets these days are overweight, without their owners even realising it! It's important for pet owners to regularly check to see if their pets are at a healthy weight. Pet obesity is a serious issue that comes with long-term health risks, so you need to be mindful about managing their weight. Even if you think that your pet is at a healthy weight, we recommend that you still routinely test to see if they are in fact at a healthy weight.
Dr. Jim Dobies, a member of the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association and veterinarian gives us a simple way to see if your pet is overweight:
"The best way is to stand above pets and look down on them. You should be able to feel their ribs but not see them. If you can see them, they are too skinny.. If you can’t see their ribs, and place your hands on the side of their chest and still can’t, they’re overweight.. Both dogs and cats should also have a nice taper at their waist (between the abdomen and where the hips go into the socket). If there is very little or none at all, they are too heavy and they’ll be oval shaped. They’ll be egg shaped rather than hourglass.. And a very obese pet will have a pendulous abdomen, hip fat, and neck fat, all of which are very noticeable.” - www.petmd.com
Dangers of pet obesity
Many vets have publicly stated that the number one health problem faced by pets is obesity and that more than half of their patients are overweight pets. This is a huge problem because obese pets are at risk of a number of health issues, which are often long-term and can be life-threatening. Perhaps if more pet parents were aware of the health risks of pet obesity, they would take better care to manage their pet's weight.
Here are the top health risks of overweight pets:
- Shorter lifespan
- Heart disease
- Breathing problems
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Insulin resistance
- Liver problems
- Low immune system
Common causes of your pet's obesity
Thyroid conditions such as an underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) could be the underlying reason as to why your pet may be overweight. If you notice that your pet is packing on the pounds, shedding hair (see Skin & Coat Tonic: Supports dog & cat skin health & shiny coat) and looking weak or lethargic, it could indicate that your pet has an under active thyroid. The thyroid gland consists of two small lobes situated in the base of your pet’s neck. This gland produces a hormone called thyroxine that regulates the body’s metabolic rate and makes it work faster. When the thyroid gland does not release adequate amounts of thyroxine, an underactive thyroid develops and results in a lower metabolic rate. Pets with hypothyroidism can also become depressed, anxious and nervous. They may suddenly become aggressive towards other people and animals (see Aggression Formula: Homeopathic remedy for aggressive pets). This condition also causes anaemia, loss of taste and smell and affects their fertility. Hypothyroid pets may also develop seizures (see EaseSure - Natural remedy for seizure control in dogs & cats).
If you suspect that your pet is showing signs of an under active thyroid or notice a change in their behaviour, consult your vet for a thorough examination. Hypothyroidism can also cause your pet to have a suppressed immune system. Keep your pet’s immune system healthy and strong with a natural immune-boosting remedy called Immunity & Liver Support. This herbal remedy cleanses and purifies the system, improves immune functioning, acts as a general tonic and also helps your pet to recover quickly after illness. Don't forget to encourage your pet to exercise as often as possible and feed them a healthy, balanced and organic diet!
Unhealthy diet / over-eating
Overfeeding your pets, or feeding them too many unhealthy treats/snacks, is one of the main causes for pet obesity. The problem then does not lie with the animal itself, but rather with the owner. Responsible pet owners ensure that their pet gets a healthy and balanced diet (see: Healthy, organic pet food and treats), as well as sufficient exercise to burn off the calories and keep their metabolism active. Healthy pets are fed twice daily, with the correct amount of food for their size. You should also ensure that your pet's digestive system is functioning optimally so that they can effectively process all the food that they consume (see Digestive Support: Natural remedy for pet digestive health).
Lack of exercise
A sedentary lifestyle will cause anybody, including animals, to gain weight. Even if your pet is consuming a healthy diet, lack of movement can result in an overweight pet! Your pet must burn more calories than he or she consumes, otherwise, the pounds will just add on! Dogs love running around parks, chasing balls and playing with interactive dog toys. Try giving your dog at least 30 minutes of exercise at least 5 days per week. While cats are unlikely to enjoy parks or going for walks with you, they absolutely love, and benefit from, playing with interactive cat toys on a daily basis.
Certain breeds have slower metabolisms than others, which could be the reason for their weight gain. Some breeds also tend to be 'lazier' than others, and may resist your efforts in getting them to be active. Dog breeds such as Labradors, Golden Retrievers, Pugs, Rottweilers, Beagles and Basset Hounds are known for their tendency to gain weight. Cat breeds that are prone to weight issues include the Sphynx, Birman, Exotic Shorthair and Persian cats.
If your pet has a predisposition to lounge around and have a hearty appetite, you need to keep in mind the long-term effects of obesity in pets. Encouraging them to exercise may be more challenging with these breeds than with others, and not giving in to their constant whines for food may almost be impossible! Be strong and remember that YOU are in charge of your pet's health and lifestyle! Ferrum Phos, which is a lactose-free and sugar-free tissue salt, is a brilliant remedy to oxygenate your pet's blood, boost their energy levels and combat fatigue.
Cushing's disease is also known as hyperadrenocorticism and is characterised by the over-production of hormones from the adrenal glands. The extra high levels of these hormones in your pet’s body can cause varied and serious symptoms, including appetite increase and weight gain. Over time, if not well-controlled, Cushing’s disease can increase your pet's risk of other conditions including diabetes, weakening of the heart and nervous system disease!
Many herbs and natural remedies can safely and effectively support your pet’s general health and help to reduce the symptoms of Cushing’s disease. Cushex Drops contain a blend of both herbal and homeopathic ingredients specially selected to treat Cushing’s in pets. Each ingredient of this natural remedy has a specific role to play in normalising adrenal function, balancing corticosteroid levels or reducing the troublesome symptoms of this condition.
If you have any pet health question, please contact our team or leave a comment below for FREE health advice. We always love hearing from you!