Hi Dr. Barchas,
My vet told me the other day that my cat Whiskers is overweight, and that this can lead to health problems. What health problems was he talking about, and what can I do to help my little friend?
Overweight cats and dogs are at increased risk for a number of health problems. Heavy cats are more likely to suffer from life-threatening diabetes and kidney failure. Obese members of both species suffer increased rates of arthritis, skin infections, and urinary infections. In dogs, obesity may contribute to such severe arthritis that pets become unable to stand up or walk.
There are two effective ways for any creature, animal or human, to lose weight: eat fewer calories, or burn more calories.
Low calorie, weight management diets are available for both cats and dogs. These vary from commercially available light formulas to heavy-duty, prescription-only diets available only from veterinarians. Switching your pet to one of these diets, if he is otherwise healthy, is a simple first step you can take. As well, you should consider feeding him smaller portions.
Also, treats often contribute to weight problems. I recommend that overweight pets have their treats divided into small pieces. Feed just one piece each time you want to give your pet a treat.
Since it isn’t practical to make cats exercise, weight management in that species is very dependent on feeding practices. Dogs, however, can go for walks. Owners of overweight dogs are more likely to see their pets lose weight if they combine dietary modification with increased exercise.