PREVENTING PET OBESITY: THE TOOLS TO KEEP YOUR PET FIT & HAPPY
Obesity is an epidemic in our society for people and for our pet companions. As owners, we have a tendency to spoil our pets because we equate food with love. In the United States, 53% of cats and 43% of dogs are classified as overweight or obese. Just like people that are overweight or obese, our companion animals have an increased risk of serious medical conditions and injuries, which include: diabetes, arthritis, torn knee ligaments, heart disease, and high blood pressure, among others. When a dog is obese or overweight, it is only a matter of time until they develop one of these conditions. Years of life are stripped away. With excessive fat, it also makes it difficult to diagnose other medical conditions.
The most common cause of obesity in dogs and cats is lack of exercise and poor diet. Pets should be getting daily exercise just like you and I. This includes: long walks, visits to the dog park, swimming, playing fetch, and using a laser light or squeaky toy for them to chase. Physical activities should occur for at least 15 minutes per day, unless a medical condition contraindicates it.
In regards to diet, concentrate on feeding a high quality food brand, such as Science Diet, Eukanuba, Royal Canin, or Purina One. Each of these brands focuses on tailoring their diets to properly meet the lower calorie requirements of your pet. In general, start by looking on the back of the bag for the feeding guide. Some animals will need to be fed less or more than suggested, but this is a good place to begin. Make sure to properly measure the amount of food being given to your pet. Use a measuring cup, not just a coffee can or scooper. Most owners are surprised to find out how little food their animal actually requires when measured correctly.
A major cause for weight gain or inability to lose weight is free feeding. All animals, both cats and dogs, should be meal fed. Multiple small meals throughout the day are ideal. In multiple pet households, be sure to feed each animal separately. After about 10 to 15 minutes, the remaining food should be put away until the next feeding.
If giving treats, use low calorie foods, fresh vegetables, or their own dog food. But, be sure to account for these treats and reduce the amount of their regular diet in proportion to the treats and table scraps provided.
In cases where one is feeding the right amount and providing proper physical activity, but the pet is still fat, a nutrition consultation with your veterinarian is beneficial. Sometimes, too many treats are being fed, the amount of food given needs to be lowered, the type of food changed, exercise increased, or blood tests performed (if a disease process like low thyroid level is causing weight gain). There are multiple weight loss diets, both over the counter and prescription, that may be recommended.
Weight loss is tough for both people and our pets. With the right understanding of the importance of weight loss and exercise, you can provide a better quality and quantity of life for your pet. Pay close attention to the foods you are feeding, the length of exercise your pet is getting, and the advice that your veterinarian provides. Before long, you’ll have a fitter, healthier pet.