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Pet obesity: health risks and weight loss tips

Who doesn't love a pudgy puppy belly or a lapful of purring kitten? But if that cute pudginess travels to adulthood or that cat begins overflowing your lap, it could spell danger for your pet. Dog and cat obesity is a growing problem in the U.S., and one no pet owner should ignore. Learn more about the dangers of pet obesity, see how to determine whether your dog or cat is overweight, and gain tips for managing your dog or cat's weight.

Why is pet obesity a health risk?

With pets, striving for a healthy weight isn't a question of looks. It's all about your pet's health. Extra pounds on your pet can lead to multiple health and wellness issues, including an increased risk for the following:

  • Injuries to bones, joints and muscles
  • Arthritis
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Liver disease
  • Skin disorders
  • Immune system deficiency
  • Cancer

Pet obesity can increase the risks of anesthesia if your pet needs surgery and can make exercise more difficult by compromising your pet's breathing and stamina. Your dog or cat being overweight can also reduce your pet's overall comfort, as well as reduce life expectancy.

Is my dog or cat overweight?

Understanding whether or not your dog or cat is overweight might start with the scale, but don't get stuck on numbers. To really evaluate your pet's body condition, step back and look. You should see a little bit of a waist when looking down at your pet's back, and you shouldn't see a protruding or hanging belly, or fat rolls. Next, feeling along your pet's sides, you should be able to feel ribs with just a little pressure.

How to help your dog or cat lose weight

Just like any person trying to lose weight, your pet needs to take in fewer calories and use more of them. However, avoid going to extremes, since it's safer for your pet if the pounds come off gradually.

Taking these steps can help you put your pet on track to a healthy weight:

  • Feed a good quality diet and consider a "diet" cat or dog food that's high in protein, low in carbs
  • Measure food and serve two or more meals per day rather than offering food free-choice
  • Increase the effort to eat - use bowls or toys designed to slow eating or hide small amounts of food in dishes throughout the house (especially good for cats)
  • Limit treats and offer healthy options, such as sweet potatoes, carrots, celery, blueberries and sliced apples or, for cats, a small piece of salmon or tuna
  • Increase regular exercise with walks, interactive play and stimulating toys

Your veterinarian can help your dog or cat lose weight

Before you start a weight loss plan for your cat or dog, it's a good idea to talk to your veterinarian and rule out any underlying health issues that could be contributing to your pet's obesity. Then, you and your vet can work together to determine a goal and a personalized plan for your pet's weight loss. Remember, even a small reduction in your dog or cat's weight can make a big health difference!

Don't forget that you can use your CareCredit credit card to pay for services and products at participating veterinary practices. Use the Acceptance Locator or download the CareCredit Mobile App to find a nearby practice that accepts the CareCredit credit card.

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