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Obesity in dogs is climbing—a local vet shares tips for keeping pets healthy

A local veterinarian says she's noticed an increase in overweight pets. She shared some tips to combat obesity and keep the four-legged family members healthy.

WAUKEE, Iowa — On average, pets weigh more now than they did 10 years ago, according to new research from Banfield Pet Hospital.

From 2011 to 2020, it found a 108% increase in overweight or obese dogs. 

Kim Wilke, owner of Iowa Veterinary Wellness Center, has noticed this trend too, and said she's concerned about it. 

"Usually what people do with their nutrition tends to kind of spill over into their pets," Wilke said. 

The veterinarian said pets being unhealthy and overweight can put a lot of stress on pets' bodies and lead to serious health consequences. 

"Mobility, joint problems, pain aches things like that," Wilke said. "[It] can also lead to heart disease, a lot of organ disease kidney liver issues."

Overweight dogs and cats are also four times more likely to have trouble cleaning themselves, which could lead to a skin infection, the Banfield study revealed.

Wilke said extra weight can also take a few years off the pet's life.

If a pet is overweight or obese, her center sometimes uses acupuncture, which can help animals who are lacking energy or dealing with sore joints. 

But she said the best treatment for overweight animals is to change their lifestyle.

 "If your pet gets a lot of treats and you want to continue to give them treats, we'll reduce the amount of food given," Wilke said. "Some people only feed dog food so that's easy, you can just decrease the amount of dog food."

Along with decreasing food intake for the animals, increase physical activity. She said this can start with short walks. 

Wilke said if an owner decides to change their pet's diet, try to avoid grain-free food, especially for dogs. She said leaving out grain could cause a form of heart disease. If the dog is eating grain-free food, try adding in oatmeal as an alternative for carbohydrates. 

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