Obesity is defined as an accumulation of excess fat resulting in excess body weight of 15% above optimal, and it is the most common nutritional disorder seen in cats and dogs. While there are rare instances of metabolic disorders causing obesity (hypothyroidism in dogs is an excellent example), in the vast majority of cases, it is simply a matter of excess caloric intake and insufficient exercise that results in pet obesity.

Much like in humans, pet obesity can lead to a number of other disease processes and can exacerbate inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis. Studies have also shown that dogs maintained at an ideal body weight live 15% longer lives.

Before embarking on a weight loss plan for your pet, it’s important to set goals and check in regularly with your veterinarian. Excess restriction of over-the-counter diets beyond 70% of the recommended daily amount may actually result in severe and potentially critical nutritional deficiencies. If your pet needs to reduce calories significantly, a veterinary therapeutic or prescription diet may be indicated. It’s also important to keep weight loss at a reasonable pace with a goal of decreasing your pet’s weight by approximately 3 – 4% per month.