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K-State Today

October 14, 2020

Kansas State University veterinarian has tips for preventing pet obesity

Submitted by Piper Brandt

An overweight dog

Are you worried your dog or cat might be at risk of becoming overweight? A Kansas State University veterinarian says there are several things to look out for when it comes to pet obesity.

"First, we need to understand why preventing obesity is important," said Taryn Pestalozzi, nutrition intern at the College of Veterinary Medicine. "A lifetime study of Labrador retrievers showed that even mildly overweight dogs live significantly shorter lives than their non-overweight counterparts."

She said the same is true for other breeds of dogs and for cats. Obesity increases risk of joint and back problems, heart disease, difficulty breathing, diabetes and urinary disease, and it also increases overall inflammation in the body.

"It's important to understand that it's much easier to keep pets slim than it is to help them lose weight once they are overweight or obese," Pestalozzi said. "The first step to preventing obesity, or treating it, if needed, is to ask your veterinarian what your pet's body condition is, referred to as the Body Condition Score, or BCS, at each visit."

The BCS indicates if pets are underweight, overweight or average. You can ask your veterinarian to show you how to assess your pet's BCS at home so you can catch weight changes early.

Pestalozzi recommends watching a Tufts University video to help on determining your pet's body condition.

You should also ask your veterinarian about specific recommendations for the best food for your pets and how much to feed them.

"Lastly, remember there are a lot of ways to show love to our pets; feeding them treats or table scraps should be the least common way we show our love," Pestalozzi said. "Instead, take them for walks, play with their favorite toys, or offer them pets, cuddles or grooming. They'll be happier and physically and mentally healthier!"

If your pet is currently overweight, you can enroll in the new six-month pet obesity clinic at the Veterinary Health Center. Read more information about the clinic