Obesity in Cats

Obesity in Cats – Overview

  • An excess of body fat, frequently resulting in adverse health effects
  • Even a moderate excess in body fat can increase incidence of disease (known as “morbidity”) and reduce lifespan

Mean Age and Range

  • All ages, with the greatest prevalence (nearly 50%) in middle-aged cats

Predominant Sex

  • Most common in neutered, indoor pets

Signs/Observed Changes in the Pet

  • Weight gain
  • Exercise intolerance may be reported
  • Excess body fat and high body condition score or BCS (estimate of weight status [under- or overweight] as compared to normal weight)

Causes

  • Obesity is caused by an imbalance between calorie or energy intake and calorie or energy expenditure, with intake exceeding expenditure
  • Neutering, decreased opportunities for activity, and age can reduce expenditure of energy
  • Overfeeding of high calorie foods, frequently alternating foods, and provision of excess treats contribute to excess calorie or energy intake
  • Low levels of thyroid hormone (known as “hypothyroidism”), insulin-secreting tumor (known as an “insulinoma”), or high levels of steroids produced by the adrenal glands (known as “hyperadrenocorticism” or “Cushing’s syndrome”) are infrequent causes of obesity

Treatment
Health Care

  • Weight loss, induced by reducing calorie intake below calorie or energy expenditure
  • Successful weight loss also requires long-term maintenance of the reduced weight
  • Weight loss and maintenance of reduced weight depend on changes in the way the owner feeds and interacts with the pet
  • The owner should assess and monitor the body condition score (estimate of weight status [under- or overweight] as compared to normal weight) of his or her pet; your pet’s veterinarian will provide information on assessing BCS

Activity

  • Calorie or energy restriction results in compensatory decreases in basal energy expenditure or metabolism; increased activity helps compensate for this decrease in metabolism and provides alternate opportunities for owner-pet interactions
  • Leash walking for dogs and trained cats—at least 15 minutes twice daily
  • Activities such as “fetch,” interactive toys for cats, or playing with a laser light
  • Food balls—built to hold treats or kibbles and randomly release them while the dog or cat plays; food used in the ball must be included as part of the daily calorie allowance

Diet

  • Get written instructions regarding specific amounts to provide, using the agreed upon reducing diet (a “cup” of food refers to an 8-oz measuring cup); measure food carefully to ensure appropriate amount is being fed
  • Protein—increased dietary protein facilitates loss of body fat, while minimizing loss of lean body mass (LBM), which is the metabolically active tissue—preserving LBM should help with long-term weight control by maintaining a higher resting energy requirement; protein also stimulates metabolism, increases energy expenditure, and contributes to the feeling of being full or satisfied (known as “satiety”)
  • Fiber—dietary fiber provides little dietary energy, so it helps reduce total calories in the diet; fiber also stimulates intestinal metabolism and energy utilization, and contributes to the feeling of being full or satisfied (satiety)
  • Other dietary factors that may aid in weight management—carnitine, compound necessary for fat metabolism; isoflavones, stimulate energy metabolism and support lean body mass
  • Fat—calorie or energy dense, so low-fat diets are lower in energy
  • Calories should be restricted, without excessive restriction of essential nutrients; a low-calorie therapeutic diet with an increased nutrient-to-calorie ratio is recommended for weight loss
  • Amount fed should target a 1–2% loss in body weight per week; faster weight loss may increase loss of lean body mass and stimulate weight rebound once weight loss is achieved
  • High moisture diets can be used to reduce calories per serving; this approach appears to be more effective for cats versus dogs, as cats tend to control their intake based on volume
  • If the client is not willing to use a therapeutic diet, severe calorie restriction should be avoided; a food diary can be used to record current intake over 3–7 days—subsequently, the pet should be fed 10–20% less than it previously received
  • Treats are often part of the owner-pet bond; complete avoidance of treats is a hurdle to compliance with weight loss programs—instead, offer a “treat allowance” of 10% of the daily calories and use low-calorie treats suitable for dogs or cats, as directed by your pet’s veterinarian

Medications

  • Medications presented in this section are intended to provide general information about possible treatment. The treatment for a particular condition may evolve as medical advances are made; therefore, the medications should not be considered as all inclusive
  • Dirlotapide (Slentrol, Pfizer Animal Health)—approved only for use in dogs; can cause decreased appetite sufficient to lead to weight loss; use with a diet formulated for weight loss; appetite and weight will rebound after discontinuing dirlotapide; talk to your pet’s veterinarian about a feeding plan to avoid rebound weight gain
  • Mitratapide has a similar mechanism of action; use limited to a single course of treatment

Follow-Up Care
Patient Monitoring

  • Frequent communication is important during the weight management program
  • Telephone call from clinic to the owner to address any minor questions and to reinforce the importance of the program
  • Pet should be weighed in the clinic on a monthly basis; if needed, adjustments in food allowance guidelines should be made at this time
  • Once the pet has achieved an ideal body condition score (estimate of weight status [under- or overweight] as compared to normal weight) guidelines should be provided for weight maintenance; continue to measure food, monitor BCS or body weight, and adjust food allowance as needed to maintain the goal weight

Preventions and Avoidance

  • Monitor food intake, weight, and body condition score (estimate of weight status [under- or overweight] as compared to normal weight) throughout life to prevent weight gain and obesity
  • Maintain a healthy diet and reduce caloric intake if pet starts gaining weight (even small weight gains of 1–2 pounds can be significant in small- and medium-size dogs and in cats)

Possible Complications

  • Obesity leads to increased risk for diseases (such as osteoarthritis, diabetes mellitus) or shortened lifespan

Key Points

  • Obesity leads to increased risk for diseases (such as osteoarthritis, diabetes mellitus) or shortened lifespan
  • Weight loss and maintenance of reduced weight depend on changes in the way the owner feeds and interacts with the pet
  • Monitor food intake, weight, and body condition score (estimate of weight status [under- or overweight] as compared to normal weight) throughout life to prevent weight gain and obesity
  • Maintain a healthy diet and reduce caloric intake if pet starts gaining weight (even small weight gains of 1–2 pounds can be significant in small- and medium-size dogs and in cats)

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