We’ve all seen that cute little dog, the one that waddles as she walks down the street, rolling from side to side trying to move her overburdened body through space and time. “She’s so adorable”, we say. And therein lies the problem, because that cute little dog is actually obese.
In North America, up to 2/3 of the pet population is now overweight, mirroring trends in their human owners. While these dogs and cats may look “fat and happy” the reality is these pets are suffering from numerous health issues. A 2005 study showed that obese cats experience diabetes at 2.2x the rate of lean cats, and cancer at 2 times the rate.
That’s right, obesity increases the risk of cancer. Other health risks of obesity in pets include increased osteoarthritis, glucose intolerance, exercise intolerance, altered kidney function, pancreatitis, urinary tract disease, inappropriate urination. Obese pets have higher heart rates and lower oxygen levels in their bloodstream after a 6-minute exercise test. These effects ultimately lead to a life span up to 2 years less than in their lean counterparts.
Keeping your pet fit and healthy is a team effort. We are happy to help you assess your pet’s current body condition, and determine the caloric needs for optimal health. This will help you stay on track at home. You can also bring your pet in for a free weigh-in at any time during normal business hours.
- Feed a high quality, natural diet. Pets will be more satisfied with less of a nutrient-dense diet than with more of a poorer quality food.
- Feeding a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet has been shown to lead to healthier weight loss and better muscle mass retention than high-fiber “weight loss” diets, in both cats and dogs.
- Don’t leave food out 24/7. It’s better to feed in 2 or 3 measured or timed meals per day.
- For cats, a wet food diet is best for healthy weight loss. Dry cat food is packed with calories.
- Whatever treats or “shared” food your pet gets, remember to deduct those calories from the next meal(s) to balance the day’s total. Yes, that means the meal needs to be smaller!
- Moderate the number of treat calories your dog or cat is getting, without making your pet (or you!) feel deprived.
- Break large treats into smaller pieces.
- Try low calorie treats, such as green beans, carrots, or small pieces of chicken.
- Give treats made from dehydrated chicken, liver, or other meat that contain primarily protein.
- Combine treats with exercise or training sessions.
- Limit rawhide bones, marrow bones, and other “chew” treats; many of them are very high in fat and will add a big load of calories to your pet’s daily intake.
Our pets need exercise to stay physically and emotionally healthy. This is especially important for indoor cats, and for dogs who are confined to a crate, or even the house, while the family is at work or school. But don’t assume that a dog who has outdoor access will “self-exercise.” They can be just as lazy as your average couch potato!
- When starting an exercise program for a sedentary pet, start slowly, and gradually work up to a healthy amount of activity
- After an unusually strenuous workout, take it a little easier for a couple of days.
- Dogs will try to keep up with you far past their point of exhaustion; watch for signs of lagging or limping, and be careful not to over-exert.
- Base your choice of activities on your dog’s age, breed, and condition; we can help guide you to the best choices.
- Get into a routine; moderate daily exercise is better than being a weekend warrior.
- Be aware of temperature, terrain, and other factors that can impact your dog. A dog’s paw pads can be burned by hot pavement, impacted by ice, or pierced by foxtails. Examine each paw after a potentially hazardous exercise session to make sure there’s no damage.