Lean dogs and cats live longer and healthier lives. Many pet owners don’t notice their dog or cat gradually putting on extra weight until the animal starts slowing down significantly or until someone else points it out. Some studies have shown that more than 45 percent of dogs and 58 percent of cats can be classified as overweight or obese. While it may not seem like much to us, a gain of even a pound or two of additional fat on some dogs and cats can place significant stress on the body.
Some of the effects of obesity can be reversed through diet changes and increased physical activity. Unfortunately, there is some damage that is irreversible, and some that can only be mitigated by the change of habits. The longer the excess weight is on the body, the more severe the long term damage to the body will likely be.
Some of the conditions that can occur as a result of excess weight are:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Heart issues
- Liver disease or dysfunction
- Exercise intolerance
- Breathing issues
- Heat intolerance
- Increased risk of developing cancer
There are a few underlying metabolic problems that can cause weight gain in your pet. When diet and exercise just aren’t enough, it may be time to check for some of these health concerns. A simple blood test can reveal whether a metabolic problem, such as anunder-functioning thyroid, Diabetes, or Cushing’sDisease is to blame. In many cases, your dog is probably just eating too many calories and not exercising enough.
Record your pet's weight to establish a baseline and have your vet help determine an ideal weight for your pet. Sometimes it is as simple as cutting their daily food portions, treats included, by about one-third. It is important to make sure their food is nutritionally sound and that they won’t be deprived of a healthy and balanced diet by making this cut. Your vet may also have you switch to a low-calorie pet food or one designed for weight loss. This way, your pet will be able to eat about the same amount they are accustomed to, but will still take in fewer calories. It is ok to still occasionally give your pets treats but it is important to calculate these additional calories into the daily calorie count. Things such as fresh vegetables, lean cooked meats, and low calorie treats are acceptable treats for most pets. A lot of times your pet will be just as happy with praise, patting, playful actions, a short walk, or a favorite toy.
Some examples of pet exercise include:
Some free time in a fenced in yard is usually not enough exercise for your pet. Keep in mind that just like with people, your furry friend may tire quickly, especially if they are not accustomed to much more than lounging around the house. When first starting your pet on an exercise routine it is important to watch for any signs of overexertion including a slowed pace, panting, and sitting or lying down.
With deliberate eating habits and daily exercise, your pet should start losing weight in about two weeks' time. The key, for canines, felines, or humans, is to boost nutrition, lower calories and increase movement. It's as simple -- and difficult -- as that. Call us or schedule an appointment at Kaibab Animal Hospital to discuss a good reduced-calorie food and exercise plan that will specifically benefit your pet’s age, weight, and breed, and you will be on your way to getting your pet on the road to recovery before it is too late. The good news is that by working together, you can both enjoy a healthier lifestyle.