Your Pet’s Weight is Their Biggest Health Risk

In America, most of us have the privilege of having “first world problems” (I.e“Ugh my iPhone broke,” “I only had Taco Bell six times this week,” “I hate it when the shower water isn’t 300 degrees.”) Ok, maybe that was overdramatized. Regardless, you get the hint. Obesity comes to the forefront of human health concerns, but what about your pet? Doesn’t Fluffy run the same risks as you would, being overweight? Certainly. According to, in a 2016 survey, 53.9% of dogs were ranked obese, and 58.9% of cat were ranked obese by their veterinarian. * Those are staggering numbers, people! Over half of our domestic friends are at a serious health risk.

He’ll only eat what I eat.” Is the most common thing I hear. Of course, if I were given the choice of Pizza Hut versus a homemade flat bread, you bet I’m picking Pizza Hut. Healthy food can’t fool me, it doesn’t have any taste! Well, same goes for your dog. You’re offering him the steak you just pulled of the grill compared to his plain brown dry kibble. He’s a smart guy, he’ll have his steak medium well, please. All jokes aside, it’s important to note that pets have a drive to live, they are not going to starve themselves to death while you’re transitioning from an unhealthy diet to a healthier choice. But why is people food so bad for him? Most people don’t take into consideration that dogs are omnivores. This means your dog needs meat amongst other things like vegetables and fruits. Cats are true carnivores, meaning their diet should consist of mainly meats. Dog and cat foods are formulated specifically for these needs. Additionally, there are very important amino acids, essential for life, that are in your pet’s food. These are not typically found in human foods.

On the back of your pet’s food there will be two things you’ll need to find. First, you’ll want to see how many KCals/Cup there are. This is how we measure pet food calories. Next, there will be a chart indicating how much food you pet should eat daily for his size. The kicker is, you need for their ideal weight NOT the weight they are currently at. Example, Fluffy is a 95-pound English Lab. The average weight of an English Lab is 55-80 pounds. You will need to take Fluffy’s stature into the equation. If you do not feel comfortable selecting an ideal weight, ask your veterinarian. They would be happy to tell you his ideal weight and Resting Energy Requirements (RES, or the amount of KCals per day.)

The journey to weight loss isn’t easy. This involves exercise and dietary changes. But the risk to your pet, remaining obese, is much more difficult. Obesity can lead to…

  • Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Dyspnea (Difficult breathing)
  • Incontinence
  • Vaginal hyperplasia & pyoderma associated with the physical changes of being overweight and the excess skin
  • The inability to groom themselves leading to urine scalding, matting, rectal pyoderma and infection, anal gland impaction/infection, and pain.
  • Osteoarthritis (And extreme worsening of pain from previous Osteoarthritis.)
  • Joint disease & hip dysplasia
  • Behavior changes (Lethargy, & Aggression (Likely secondary to pain from above conditions.))
  • And many more!

I’m not saying your pet will develop every one of these diseases and/or symptoms. Nor am I suggesting that your pet will develop a single symptom. However, as your pet’s weight increases, their risk of developing life-threatening condition rises. With obesity, your pet runs a higher anesthetic risk. This means, should your pet need surgery, the risk that your pet may not make it through anesthesia, rises. Obesity itself is not a disease but drastically changes your physical body for pounds that it is unable to handle. This is the danger we put our pets in with improper diets and a “food is love” mentality. You have a life outside of your pet. Your pet’s life, however, is you. So, it is your responsibility as the owner to practice loving your pet in ways they enjoy and that are healthy for them too. Go for a relaxing evening walk with Fido. Play with your cat and the laser pointer while you have your Sunday morning coffee. Go to the dog park and make a dog park buddy! These are not only ways to improve your pet’s quality of life, but a good excuse to make time for your mental health as well!


Thanks for reading,

Your Friendly Neighborhood Vet Tech.



* Ward, Dr.Ernie. “2016 Pet Obesity Survey Results.” Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 21 Feb. 2017,

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