In the same way that obesity has become a problem for people, it has also become a problem for our pets. Several health issues can arise as a result of obesity. Many of these health concerns are the same ones that obese people face.
For cats, the major health problem that can arise as a result of obesity is diabetes. Overweight cats are at a significantly higher risk for diabetes than cats who are at a healthy weight (See #31 Diabetes Mellitus in Cats).
For dogs, the main health concerns associated with obesity are heart failure and arthritis. Just like in people, when a dog is carrying around more weight than he is meant to carry, his heart has to work overtime. When the heart has to work extra hard, it wears out before it would have otherwise. In addition, the extra weight puts too much pressure on the dog's joints causing extra wear and tear that leads to arthritis.
Bottom line: Obesity will significantly reduce your pet's lifespan. So, stop killing your pet with kindness! What do I mean by that?
The number one contributor to pet obesity: Feeding your pet people food! I hear all the time, "But he really likes it and will throw a fit if I don't give it to him." First of all, if you don't start, then you don't have to stop. Secondly, just like a child will choose donuts over green beans, your pet will choose people food over pet food. There are some perfectly acceptable pet treats that your pet will appreciate that are much healthier than people food. Your pet will adapt to the change, just be consistent.
The next question is, "How do I know if my pet is obese?"
There is a simple illustration: First, make a fist. If your pet’s ribs look like your knuckles when you make a fist, then it is too thin. Second, turn your palm face up with your fingers straight out. If your pet’s ribs look like the pads over your knuckles on your palm, then he is too fat. Finally, turn your palm face down with your fingers straight out. If your pet’s ribs look like your knuckles, then he is the ideal body weight. In other words, you want to be able to easily feel his ribs when you rub your hands over them, but you don't want to see his ribs.
Finally, "What do I do if my dog is obese?"
First, stop feeding him people food. Second, cut back on the fatty treats. By that, I mean things like rawhides and pig's ears. There are some very good low fat treats that you can use. Alternatively, one of the easiest things to do is give him a piece of his kibble (dry food). Since it is being given outside of his normal feeding time, he will think of it as a special treat. Also, if you are feeding canned food, either stop all together, or cut it back significantly. Canned pet foods are much higher in fat than dry kibble. Additionally, canned food is a major contributor to dental disease. Finally, just like people, pets need to exercise. So, get him moving. This will not only help him slim down, it will also improve the health of his joints.
Again, a pet at a healthy weight will live significantly longer than an obese pet. I don't know about you, but I want my pets around for as long as I can have them!