Fighting obesity in animals

Obesity in pets is a rising problem. Here’s how to make sure your animal companion doesn’t become another statistic.

We all love to reward our pets with treats. But are you overdoing it? Just as humans are battling with their weight, studies show more pets than ever fall into the “overweight” or “obese” categories. In fact, obesity is the most common nutritional disorder in dogs and cats, and the stats are alarming: 52.5% of dogs and 58.3% of cats were rated as overweight or obese by veterinarians in 2012. By comparison, adult humans had an obesity rate of 40% in 2011-2012.

How do you know if your dog or cat is obese? You might not think so, but dogs and cats are obese when their weight is more than 30% above ideal. For example, if your pet’s ideal weight is 10 lbs and she weighs at least 13 lbs (30% of 10 is 3), she is not only overweight but obese.

Unfortunately, according to veterinarians, there is a 45% chance that you don’t know that your obese pet is, indeed, FAT. We often have blinders on when it comes to how our pets look. So it’s important to take an objective look at your animal companion, and take charge of his or her weight.

The effects of obesity

Just as obesity is bad for us, it is bad for our pets too. Excessive fat has physical effects on the canine and feline body: excessive weight bearing on joints can cause painful chronic joint disease; upper airway constriction (obese pets with flat faces such as Pugs and Persian cats can have greater difficulty breathing); inability to groom the hindquarters; and increased insulation causing reduced heat loss. Fat cats are also prone to developing fatty liver disease (hepatic lipidosis), which is a serious and sometimes fatal disease. Also keep in mind that obese animals are at greater risk of life-threatening complications under anesthesia and are also at greater risk of developing diabetes. Diabetes is a very serious lifetime disease and many diabetic dogs will become blinded by cataracts within nine months of becoming diabetic. (This will usually require cataract surgery, however, cataracts may be prevented in diabetic dogs placed on Ocu-GLO Rx as soon as possible following diagnosis of diabetes.)

Other issues related to obesity

Excessive fat may also cause abnormal hormonal function of fat deposits. It is not widely known that fat is actually an endocrine organ and secretes adipokines (protein modulators). Adipokines regulate immune function, energy homeostasis, vascular development (angiogenesis), lipid and glucose metabolism, and hemostasis. As fat deposits grow to abnormally high amounts, fat secretes pro-inflammatory adipokines. So obesity can be considered a state of chronic inflammation of the body, which is a serious health concern (and yes, it happens in obese humans too).

All the more reason to take action against obesity! If you’re not sure about your pet’s weight status, ask your veterinarian.


Dr. Carmen Colitz is a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist, who has extensively researched antioxidants in eye health. Based out of Florida, her work has helped countless dogs, cats and aquatic mammals over the last 20 years. Dr. Colitz and Dr. Terri McCalla are founders of Animal Health Quest Solutions and formulators of Ocu-GLO, a vision supplement for dogs and cats comprised of 12 antioxidants.