Click here to learn more.
Vetstreet. All rights reserved.
Vetstreet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. See Additional Information ›
Wellness is my thing. As I’ve told my veterinary colleagues for many years, wellness is not the absence of illness. In fact, in many of my articles, I’ve explored why defining health in terms of illness is making us lose sight of the true goal of living — optimal wellness.
An important aspect of wellness is maintaining a healthy body weight. As a veterinarian, I see firsthand the distressing effect that obesity has on my patients, not only robbing them of their quality of life but also stealing years that could have been spent with loved ones.
To help combat this burgeoning problem, I founded the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) in 2005. For the past five years, we’ve conducted nationwide veterinary surveys to gauge the plight of portly pets. And the news hasn’t been good.
This year, our survey found that 54 percent of dogs and cats in the U.S. were classified as overweight or obese by their veterinarians. That amounts to more than 88 million pets who are at risk for developing osteoarthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease and many forms of cancer.
But this is only half the problem.
Our survey also concluded that many pet owners are in denial about their pet’s weight. When we asked them to assess their pet’s weight, 22 percent of dog owners and 15 percent of cat owners characterized their pet as at a normal weight — when they were actually overweight or obese! This is what I refer to as the “fat pet gap” or the normalization of obesity by pet owners. In simple terms, we’ve made fat pets the new normal.
When pet parents accept overweight as normal, they’re less likely to accept veterinary advice about their pet’s weight. If I had a nickel for every time that an owner says, “She’s big-boned,” and “I don’t like skinny animals,” I’d be able to buy myself a fancy suit.
I believe overweight pets mirror another epidemic I’m also worried about: childhood obesity. In both cases, the causative agent is the same — parents. It’s time that we take this sacred responsibility more seriously and understand that what we feed our kids and pets directly impacts their health and longevity.
Owners need to work closely with their veterinarians and ask to conduct a body condition score (BCS) assessment to determine if their pet is packing too many pounds. Don’t be shy about asking — many vets fear discussing the topic of obesity because they're afraid to upset you. And if your vet tells you that your pet is too heavy, don’t take it personally.
The truth is that it can be tough to evaluate what is normal for some pets, especially large dogs. For domestic cats, eight to 10 pounds is a healthy range for the vast majority of adults. A healthy weight for most Labrador Retrievers ranges between 65 and 80 pounds, while Chihuahuas are best suited at four to six pounds.
Skinny isn’t the new healthy — healthy is the new healthy. And health isn’t about chasing a number on a scale, either. It’s about reaching an optimal state of wellness. This starts by recognizing what your pet's weight is today, and then creating a diet and exercise plan for tomorrow with your vet, so you can spend many more years cuddling with your beloved warm critter.
Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!
Take our breed quiz to find your next pet.
Get all the best pet news and information sent right to your inbox!
Thank you for subscribing!
A Florida police officer became a hero for
a Pit Bull puppy he saved during the early
morning hours of his 12-hour…
Do you know what it means when your
dog wags his tail or shows his belly? The
answers may surprise you.
From adopting on a whim to overlooking
senior dogs, here are the errors people
often make when rescuing shelter…
You may love the idea of sharing your
bed with a kitten, but Dr. Marty Becker
says you should wait until he's older.
Annual examinations are the cornerstone
of a good preventive care regimen and
can save you money in the long run.
If you've ever vacationed on the Greek islands, you may have noticed Aegean Cats hanging around fishing boats.
There's a lot of false information out there
about heartworm disease, so we're
debunking common misconceptions.
Check out our collection of more than 250 videos about pet training, animal behavior, dog and cat breeds and more.
Wonder which dog or cat best fits your lifestyle? Our new tool will narrow down more than 300 breeds for you.
Visit HealthyPet magazine for interviews with pet-loving celebrities, health advice from our experts, training tips and…
If the video doesn't start playing momentarily,
please install the latest version of Flash.
Thank you for subscribing.