The big question is: what is an actual healthy weight for my pet? In the United States, the statistics of overweight pets that we see in veterinary medicine are well over 50% of the animals that come into our clinics, and unfortunately, this number is rapidly growing. The obesity discussion has become a normal part of appointments, and owners fail to see the long-term risks for their pets. Dealing with weight-related diseases can cost thousands of dollars over your pet’s lifetime and is not something that should be ignored.
Overweight animals have been classified as cute and are often associated with familiar breeds. The reality is that for many of our overweight pets, there is a list of health issues that can and will occur. Extra weight puts stress on their bodies and can cause issues such as ruptured ligaments, Intervertebral Disc Disease(IVDD), diabetes, some cancers, liver and kidney disease, arthritis, increased surgery risk, and heart disease.
So what can we do to help our pets and prevent obesity?
What To Do
There is so much information about weight loss; your veterinary staff is always available first and foremost for questions or conversations. Here are a few easy tips and strategies to get your pet on the road to a happy and healthy lifestyle. We promise it is not as scary as it may seem!
Exercise – Exercise is often overlooked but so very important for a healthy life. Taking your dog on daily walks is the easiest way to maintain an exercise regimen. Other options to consider are dog parks, day camps, or hiring a pet walker. Each dog is different, but meeting their exercise requirement is the most important aspect. Cats need short periods of interactive play, and while they nap frequently, great tools to have on hand in between are toys, cat towers, or lasers. Their high prey drive makes them excellent playing companions.
Treats – Treats and snacks are an easy trap to fall into with the variety offered in pet stores. And probably the most difficult part of keeping your pet’s weight reasonable is not giving in to the begging or constant showering of snacks. Choosing healthy treats is a simple and quick fix! Just like in people, pet treats contain sugar and additives. Consider an apple slice, carrots, or green beans. These healthy treats are often well received and can be added to meals as well. The healthier the option, the more your pet can have without worrying about health concerns.
Meal Choices – We recommend purchasing well-balanced, reliable food. Brands like Hills, Science Diet, and Purina are all great companies that research and test their foods before putting them on shelves. These brands also provide charts on the back of the bag for how much to feed per weight or age. It is very easy to overfeed or feel pressured to buy unhealthy foods. Purchasing and sticking to a good diet is the first step to weight loss or maintenance.
How Do I Know if My Pet is Overweight?
To do a check on your dog or cat, feel around its midsection while he/she is standing. The ribs and spine should be easy to feel, and on most pets, you should be able to feel ‘a waist’ or a slight hourglass shape to the waist. If the ribs and spine are palpable, your dog or cat is likely to be slim and healthy. If you cannot easily feel your dog or cat’s ribs or spine, and the tucked-in waist has thickened enough to give the pet a more tubular shape, it is time to think about a weight loss program for your pet. No waist is a good indicator of a weight issue.
So Where Do I Start?
Schedule an exam with your veterinarian to discuss a weight loss plan. They can make recommendations on an exercise regimen and switching diets that will work best for your pet. We love seeing your pet’s weight loss journey!