Hello, Alamogordo! I’m veterinarian Dr. Katie Lambden of Paw in Hand Veterinary Care. Welcome to Vet Minute.

Fluffy, or fat? Today’s topic is Obesity in Pets. This is an issue I see impacting quality of life every day. Obesity stresses joints, increasing risk of injury and worsening arthritis. It contributes to insulin resistance and diabetes, especially in cats. Fat puts pressure on the windpipe, worsening coughs and breathing issues in patients with heart disease or collapsing trachea. High blood pressure, kidney disease, liver and thyroid issues, and cancer are increased in overweight animals.

How do you know if your pet is overweight, like 60% of cats and 55% of dogs in the United States? One way is to run your hands over the ribs, which should be easy to feel. Overweight animals have a fat layer that “pads” the ribs, making them difficult to feel. Fat cats have a saggy belly that swings when they walk. Obese dogs go straight back from chest to hips with little to no narrowing at the waist.

How do you know how much to feed? If I had a dollar for every time a client told me, “But I only feed as much as the bag says to!” I could retire tomorrow. Feeding guides on the back of the food bag over estimate energy requirements. Older animals and those that are spayed or neutered need fewer calories than young, growing animals, but many foods are labeled for “all life stages” and thus the calculated requirements are for young animals. If your pet is overweight, it doesn’t matter exactly how much you have been feeding her – it is too much. Remember that snacks count, too. A few milk bones and half a hotdog here or there may not seem much, but to a 15 pound dachshund, that’s a lot of calories.

Cats are poor at processing carbs, and do better on a high protein, low carb diet most easily found in canned foods. Indoor cats free-fed kibble are almost all overweight. Because of this as well as bladder and kidney issues, I recommend a canned diet for all my feline patients.

Exercise can help, but calorie reduction is the first step to get your pet to a point where she can exercise safely and comfortably. Start slow when introducing an exercise program and allow her stamina to improve gradually, to avoid injury.

If you aren’t sure if your pet is fat, or think he is and want to discuss weight control, make an appointment with your veterinarian. It’s never too late to help your dog or cat get into shape and live a longer, healthier life!

This “Vet Minute” brought to you by Dr. Katie Lambden of Paw in Hand Veterinary Care on Cuba Avenue in Alamogordo, and KHII. Submit your questions for consideration on upcoming shows by visiting our website at pawinhandvet.com or calling us at (575) 434-4343.