The role of diet in obese cats and dogs

By Sophie Lavallée M.Sc., Agr.

According to the latest statistics, 52.7% of dogs and 57.9% of cats are obese or overweight in the United States. The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association defines the terms obesity and overweight using a standard 1-9 scale system, where 1 is thin and 9, morbidly obese.  A pet is considered overweight if he scores 6 or 7 out of 9 and obese if he scores higher than 7.

This means that most pets are either obese or overweight – an alarming finding indeed. Obesity in pets can lead to many health problems and, more importantly, to a shorter life expectancy.  Fortunately, consumers are now much more informed and have better tools to count the calories their pets consume and determine appropriate portions for them.

How can diet be used to keep your pets at a healthy weight?

The pet food industry now offers many formulas that promote weight loss or weight control. The main way diet can be used to keep your pets at a healthy weight is to reduce their caloric intake, follow feeding guidelines, and not give your pets any table scraps.  Products for senior cats and dogs are specifically formulated to promote intestinal health and a healthy weight.

Diet plays a critical role in both pets and people becoming obese or overweight. Recent studies show a cause and effect link between intestinal flora diversity and obesity risks in people (J. Alcock et al, 2014). Obesity risks increase when microbial diversity is reduced through such things as the ongoing use of antibiotics, the under-consumption of fibre and the over-consumption of carbohydrates. This mechanism occurs when the loss of indigenous microbes leads to flora depletion. Depleted of good bacteria, so called “bad” bacteria create inflammation, while other types mimic hunger signals sent to the brain. Harmful bacteria affect eating patterns by modulating hunger control, resulting in a vicious circle, where diet modulates the intestinal flora and the intestinal flora controls eating patterns.

However, a diet that includes prebiotic fibre sources such as inulin helps reduce obesity risks by promoting good intestinal health. The use of legumes, which has become increasingly popular, helps give pets the energy they need while promoting weight loss. Diversity goes hand in hand with healthy gut bacteria, making it a key aspect of pet foods that promote intestinal health.

We hope you enjoyed learning about the role of diet in obese cats and dogs. Feel free to contact us should you have any questions on this subject.


2014 National Pet Obesity Awareness Day Survey

Joe Alcock, Carlo C. Maley, and C. Athena Aktipis., Is eating behavior manipulated by the gastrointestinal microbiota? Evolutionary pressures and potential mechanisms Bioessays 36: 940–949, ß 2014 The Authors. Bioessays published by WILEY Periodicals, Inc