The holiday season is upon us!

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The holiday season is upon us once again. My house is flooded with apple and pumpkin-flavored goodies, as well as leftover Halloween candy.  Soon, Thanksgiving and the winter holidays will provide bountiful tasty treats and New Year’s resolutions will be made.  As I gear up for another season of warm, figure-forgiving sweaters and eating until I drop, I think about my patients that also have expanding waist lines.

Many of us think of overweight pets as cute, pudgy, pleasantly plump, or big-boned.  Social media is full of pictures and memes of these pets and we think nothing of it.  The truth, however, is that our pets can suffer many of the same weight-related issues that are found commonly in human medicine.  These illnesses include: generalized inflammation and painful joints, diabetes (high blood sugar), high blood pressure, heart and lung disease, knee injury, kidney disease, and cancer.  Increased weight has also been noted to decrease pet life expectancy by up to 2.5 years (~15-30% of a pet’s lifespan).

According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention in a 2015 study, approximately 58.2% of cats and 53.8% of dogs are overweight or obese.  That means one out of every two pets is considered overweight.  In addition to these startling findings, a study in 2014 found a gap between a pet’s actual body condition and the owner’s perception of the pet’s weight.  Ninety percent of cat owners and 95% of dog owners felt that their pets were normal weight, when they were clinically overweight.  There is also an increasing amount of pets in the obese category (greater than 30% over the ideal weight).  For comparison, that would be an adult human whose ideal weight is 150 pounds, weighing over 195 pounds. That’s an extra 45 pounds!

We, as veterinarians, sometimes have difficulty talking to our clients about weight and weight-related issues due to a number of reasons; most commonly, for me at least, is the fact that I don’t want to offend my clients.  I know that my clients bring their pets to me, because they care about the health and well-being of their furry family members.  My clients don’t try to cause pain or discomfort to their beloved pets. So I often find it difficult to balance the realization that there is a health problem and the sensitive communication needed to express the necessity for change.

Two main scenarios prevail as road blocks to healthy weight communication: client behavior and client health.  First, many people feed their pets out of love and attention, which makes me the bearer of bad news; threatening to break that bond with a diet.  I need to work closely with my clients to give healthier options to maintain the relationship.  Second, weight is a delicate issue, in general, when, according to JAMA Internal Medicine, two-thirds of Americans are now considered overweight or obese.

The bottom line is this. We can do better.  I, as your veterinarian, can communicate your pet’s nutritional needs and work closely on a plan to get your pet to a healthy and happy weight.  You, as a pet owner, can ask about nutrition.  You can also be proactive about increasing exercise; either at home or at our facility, via walks, play-times, and under water treadmill sessions.  You can follow the nutritional plan devised by your veterinarian closely; remembering that we are working together to give your pet increased energy, mobility, and an overall, longer and happier life.

November is Pet Diabetes Awareness Month.  Please contact us if you would like your pet evaluated for obesity and/or diabetes.  We would be happy to schedule a nutritional consultation. Please also watch for January specials, including New Year’s resolution weight loss programs and promotions.

I hope you enjoy your holiday season and I’ll raise my eggnog to you and your pet’s health in the coming year.

– Dr. Spaar


To learn more, please visit the following sites:

Pet weight statistics and weight loss tools                   

Hill’s Metabolic Diet (our preferred weight-loss food)

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