Overweight pets

Fat cat by scales

Most animals do not present to our clinics primarily for being overweight, but it is a topic we discuss with owners daily. While you may not notice your pet slowly gaining weight, because we see your pets more infrequently (as well as often having a record of their weight from previous visits) we are often better placed to pick up on subtle changes.

A study carried out by the SPCA found more than 25% of dogs and 20% of cats in New Zealand were overweight or obese.

Unfortunately, those few extra kilos can exacerbate or accelerate the onset of several other health conditions. These include:

  • Arthritis/joint disease – carrying around all that extra weight can lead to irreversible damage to your pet’s joints.
  • Skin and coat problems – obese animals, particularly cats, can have difficultly properly grooming themselves. Accumulation of oils and debris in skin folds can also lead to skin infections.
  • Increased anaesthetic/surgical risk – increased fat depots lead to slower recovery from anaesthetic drugs and can make surgery more difficult due to increased fat obscuring organs.
  • Diabetes mellitus – increased fat dampens the body’s ability to respond to insulin.
  • Heart disease/hypertension – pumping blood to excess tissues puts an additional strain on the heart.
  • Decreased liver function – fat can accumulate in the liver decreasing its function.
  • Decreased immune function – more prone to bacterial and viral infections.
Ideal versus overweight dog
Dog swimming

Reducing and maintaining a healthy weight in your pet(s) requires a combined approach, ensuring they are receiving both adequate nutrition and the right amount of exercise.

  • For animals that need to lose weight, it is important to feed a low calorie, high protein, high fibre diet to ensure safe weight loss.  Royal Canin’s Satiety range is a good option for this.
  • Weight loss should be achieved slowly, no more than 35% of their bodyweight per month.
  • Weigh out your pet’s food. ‘Eyeballing’ portions can lead to overfeeding and inadvertent weight gain
  • Puzzle feeders or creating activities in which your pet ‘earns’ their food slows down the rate at which food is ingested.
  • Increasing exercise in a safe manner is also essential. Exercise should be introduced slowly and consistently to avoid injury. Your vet will be able to formulate a plan with you that is best suited to your pet’s individual requirements.

Maintaining a healthy weight is an important component of prolonging quality of life in our pets. If this is something you would like to know more about, or assistance with achieving in your pets, then pop into your local Franklin Vets clinic.

Dr Stephaine Reid BSc (Hons) BVSc



Franklin Vets

Franklin Vets - excellence in veterinary care for dairy, farming, lifestyle, equine and household pets. BESTPRACTICE ACCREDITED NZ.