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July 8, 2011 > Chubby Pets

Chubby Pets

Americans are suffering from obesity at an ever-increasing rate and our pet friends are no different. We love our pets and want the best for them but every day I examine my patients and a large percentage (>75%) are overweight. Talking about obesity is a delicate subject as I can relate to the challenges that these pets and their owner's feel. Obesity is one of the most preventable diseases in our pets. Research indicates that nationally, six out of 10 pets are overweight; I believe the rate is higher in the Bay Area.

Obesity in pets doesn't have the social stigma attached to it. It seems that we all like to have chubby pets. I often hear, "Doctor, my pet is very hungry and he barely eats anything." When asked if they give treats, table scraps, and leftovers, many respond with a resounding "yes." As a Veterinarian, you can tell when they get that look on their face. Instantaneously, family members look at each other and find someone to blame for giving table scraps.

Overweight pets tend to have similar weight-related conditions that we do. These include arthritis, diabetes, skin fold infections, anal sac impactions, heart disease, bronchitis and other breathing conditions. Obese pets don't run or play as much as pets that weigh less. Obese pets also tend to have more problems with anesthesia and surgery. I personally treat many of these ailments daily. Recent research suggests that a pet can live approximately 1 1/2 year longer if weight is maintained at optimal levels.

Why do pets gain weight?
1. Too little exercise: Take your pet on regular walks. A walk is an all-around workout and keeps mind and body healthy. Consult your veterinarian if your pet has arthritis or joint problems.
2. Breed (genetics): Certain breeds are prone to put on weight easily. They include common breeds such as Labrador Retrievers, Beagles, and Cocker Spaniels among others.
3. Overeating: This is the most common reason. Most Veterinarians recommend measuring how much is fed to your pet. The majority of pets tend to overeat if given free choice feeding. Table scraps and lots of treats are often the culprit for weight gain. This is especially common in the Bay Area as many new immigrant communities are used to giving table scraps as they did in their homeland. Limit treats to low-calorie choices that make up no more than 10% of your dog's diet.
4. Hormonal conditions: Some pets have hormonal imbalances that contribute to obesity. Medical diseases can also make your pet appear overweight when, in-fact, they have an enlarged organ or mass. Please consult your Veterinarian to see if this may be the case.

What is my pet's ideal weight?
Although it is best to consult your Veterinarian, ideal weight is when your pet's ribs and backbones are easily felt. The flank/belly area should also be tight and your pet should have a visible waistline.

New drug for obesity management
Recently, Pfizer introduced a new medication for management of obesity in dogs called Slentrol?. When used as directed, Slentrol? helps obese dogs lose weight at a steady, sustainable rate-the medically appropriate approach to weight loss. Please consult your Veterinarian if this drug may be of help for your pet. Slentrol? is for dogs only and should not be used in cats (or people)!

Get fit with your pet
Recently, a new study demonstrates that both people and their pets are more successful in staying on a weight loss program if they exercise together. Consult your veterinarian for support and advice regarding how to best manage your pet's condition. Cheers to our pets! May they live long, healthy, happy lives!

Dr Raj Salwan is a second generation Veterinarian and has been around veterinary medicine for over 21 years. His interests include Internal Medicine, Surgery, Emergency/Acute care, and General small animal practice. He currently works at American Animal Care Center in Fremont and can be reached via email at or

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