Tank Trims Down: A Cautionary Tale On Pet Obesity And Weight Management

The number of overweight and obese U.S. pets has reached epidemic levels, making this condition one of pet owners’ most pressing health concerns. To highlight this important topic, we’d like to introduce you to our four-legged friend, Tank—a 6-year-old Labrador retriever and friend of our Staples Mill Animal Hospital team.Like millions of pets in our country, Tank had been enjoying one too many treats and table scraps, and his appearance began to resemble his name. We’re sharing Tank’s weight-loss journey to educate pet owners whose own furry friend has packed on some pounds, and are committed to helping get their dog’s or cat’s health back on track.

Assessing your pet’s weight

When Tank’s owners read the shocking statistic that more than half of all U.S. dogs and cats are clinically overweight, they began to wonder about Tank’s health. Could Tank be one of the millions of our country’s overweight pets? Tank’s owners had not given his weight much thought over the years. As a puppy, Tank had been naturally big, and he grew to become a seriously big dog. Unfortunately, Tank’s owners never considered that he was, perhaps, a little too big. But after learning about the pet obesity epidemic, they knew they should take a close look at their beloved Tank’s weight.

Tank’s owners decided to get serious about his weight loss and management, and determined where he ranked on a body condition score chart. A body condition score (BCS) is a number assigned to your pet based on fat evaluation at a few key body locations, including their ribs, waist, and hips. The following ranges can help you determine if your pet is at a healthy weight:

  • 1 to 3 = underweight — Your pet may be underweight if you can easily see their ribs, spine, and hip bones, with little fat, and an extremely obvious waistline.
  • 4 to 5 = ideal weight — When your pet is at their ideal weight, you cannot see their ribs, spine, and hip bones, but you can easily feel them. Your pet is well proportioned, with a visible waistline.
  • 6 to 9 = overweight to obese — Your pet may be overweight if you cannot see or feel their ribs, spine, and hip bones, or their waistline, and they have excess body fat deposits.

Using the BCS score chart as a reference, Tank’s owners determined that his score was around a 7. Yikes! They realized that Tank was not simply a big dog, but actually obese. His owners were shocked, and they felt a bit guilty too. They loved Tank and would do anything to make him happy. To show him how much they loved him, they often shared their table scraps with him after meals, in addition to feeding him pet treats and kibble throughout the day. Tank’s owners also weighed him, and confirmed his BCS score. As difficult as it was to admit, Tank’s owners realized they had been equating food with love, and now poor Tank had a serious weight problem.

A pet who is at least 10% to 20% heavier than their ideal healthy weight is consdered overweight, and pets more than 20% heavier than ideal—as was Tank’s weight—are considered obese. While acknowledging that your pet is unhealthy can be difficult, this realization is the first step to taking action to restore your pet’s weight and health.

Helping your pet lose weight

Once Tank’s owners were ready to take action, they scheduled an appointment with their Staples Mill Animal Hospital veterinarian. After performing a thorough examination and diagnostic testing to rule out any underlying diseases that could be causing Tank’s weight gain, his veterinarian helped his owners set realistic weight-loss goals. They then devised Tank’s tailored weight-loss plan.

Tank’s veterinarian and owners helped him shed the excess pounds, and return to a healthy weight. They agreed to share their pet weight-loss strategies here:

  • Measure portion sizes exactly.
  • Cut back on treats and table scraps.
  • Exercise your pet daily, gradually increasing the duration.
  • Assess your pet’s BCS regularly to monitor their progress.

Maintaining your pet’s healthy weight

Tank’s weight loss did not happen overnight, but his owners remained consistent. At Tank’s annual wellness exam, his veterinarian was delighted to see that Tank is losing weight, thus improving his health and quality of life. Of course, Tank’s owners understand that maintaining his healthy weight is a lifelong journey, and they are committed to keeping up with his lifestyle changes to support his long-term health and wellbeing.

We hope Tank’s weight-loss journey inspires other pet owners to help their own pets reclaim their health. Whether your pet is already at their ideal weight, or needs to lose weight, contact our Staples Mill Animal Hospital team, so we can support you and your pet.