Helping overweight and obese cats and dogs

Too many calories in and not enough exercise leads to obesity in pets

Obesity is one of the biggest problems seen not only in humans but our canine and feline animal companions as well. The two main reasons behind this epidemic for all species involve too many calories in and not enough exercise. This is often complicated by the fact that given the carnivorous nature of both dogs and cats, being more evolved to eat meat sources of protein, most of the dry commercial diet kibbles fed by guardians around the country are loaded with processed and/or refined carbohydrates as the chief economic protein source for pet food companies.

However as in people, it is the ingestion of too many carbohydrates that is involved with most of the weight gain. This is especially problematic in the obligatory carnivorous cats, where many guardians feed dry food only thinking it is mistakenly better for their teeth, as well as better for their feline companion’s health. The ideal diet for cats in most cases is a fresh high protein/meat based diet. Meat is rich in protein, fat and is 75% water. Dry kibbles not only put extra strain on the urinary system and kidneys of cats, but are a very big cause of weight gain, particularly in indoor only cats who get very little exercise.

With weight gain and obesity in both dogs and cats, there have been documented increased health risks known to occur, just as there are in people. Increased risk of diabetes, chronic respiratory and cardiac disorders, joint and back problems and even cancer is seen in obese patients. If one were to feed their pets the suggested serving amount placed on commercial pet food bags, then all pets would be obese, as these feeding suggestions are often way too high. Back in 2007, the FDA approved an obesity treatment drug for dogs only called Slentrol (main ingredient dirlotapide). In my opinion and experience I have not been impressed with the results in pets treated with this medication, as well as my concern for side effects involving the digestive tract and in particular the liver.

From what I understand, this was a drug that failed in human trials as an obesity treatment drug, but gained approval for use in dogs. The best suggestions I can make to either avoid and/or treat obesity in our pets is to first feed as natural a diet as possible. The best is a proper home made diet, following recipes by experts like Richard Pitcairn and Donald Strombeck, whose books can be easily obtained and both contain balanced, easy to do, homemade recipes. If this is not possible, than moving toward at least a fresh natural diet with less carbs and higher protein levels and fat in cats and dogs would be my next suggestion. Many of the so called “reduced calorie” diets sold by many veterinarians across the country and seen on supermarket shelves are loaded with lesser-quality ingredients in my opinion, as well as too many processed carbohydrates for effective long term and safe weight loss.

There are some excellent natural supplements that can help with weight loss including inclusion of such products like Vetri-DMG liquid, coenzyme Q-10, as well as trace minerals like chromium. I always recommend that any guardian using such supplements work closely with a more holistic-minded veterinarian, who has more of an interest in species appropriate nutrition than typical conventional veterinarians, whose training in nutrition only includes usually a 2 hour course, as well as whose recommendations are based on what pet company sales representatives tell them, rather than what they learned in nutritional class in veterinary school. And of course giving our feline and canine companions as much exercise as possible (under veterinarian’s recommendation) is always important when implementing any weight loss program.

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5 Comments

  1. Best solution: Eating right. We cook for our dogs – lean chicken, steamed veggies and small amounts of high quality dry dog food. They slimmed down quickly. The vet is super pleased. The dogs love meal time. They have new energy too. If humans ate like this …….Hmmmmmmm.

  2. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianDecember 5, 2009 at 1:04 am

    HI Wanda: Great comment. So true. If we could get most animal guardians on board with feeding their feline and canine companions that way, there would be alot less disease. The sad facts are that vets get very little training on proper nutrition in veterinary school, and much of the rhetoric told to clients and sold out of vet offices is not what was learned in nutritional science class, but actually what pet food sales reps tell us in the field. Has not changed since I graduated in 1991. Hopefully that day is coming however.

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  4. Hi, my cat Cookie has Diebetes I have her on weight control dry food but I am looking for soft food for her. My vet told me to put her on W/d soft food , she is 12 yours old. Do you all carry that kind of food.

  5. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianFebruary 21, 2013 at 12:03 am

    I dont think 1800petmeds carries wet W/D food. I would try a low fat low, carb wet food like evo from 1800petmeds

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