We try to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle through exercise and eating better. Our pampered kitties and pups no longer have to hunt for their meals, which means that their calorie requirements are not very high and, as with humans, extra calories equal extra pounds. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), obese pets in America have surpassed 160 million! What can you do to help prevent your furry loved ones from putting on too much weight?
It is estimated that 24% to 44% of dogs and 25% to 30% of cats seen by veterinarians are overweight or obese, and up to 50% of dogs 5 to 10 years old are overweight or obese.
Whether due to extra food, lazy lifestyles or an underlying medical condition, overweight pets can face medical issues such as:
- Decreased life expectancy and impaired quality of life
- Chronic inflammation
- Respiratory problems
- Exercise and heat intolerance
- Impaired immune function
- Increased risks during and after anesthesia
- Difficulty grooming
As pet owners, we hate to think of the day when we’ll lose our pets, but taking good care them can help ensure that they’ll stick around for quite some time. Luckily, with vigilance, consistency and some extra playtime, pet obesity can be addressed, treated and prevented.
We love our pets and strive to give them the best care possible by addressing their many needs, such as routine veterinary care, environmental enrichment and nutrition. We all know that our pets love snacks and treats, and, in moderation, food rewards can aid in training, playtime and enhance our human-animal bonds. Unfortunately, it can be all too easy to show affection to our cats and dogs through food, and if we’re not careful, this habit can negatively affect their health and well-being.
Weight loss is not about starvation or deprivation, it’s about accurately calculating how much food your pet needs to stay healthy while providing ample opportunities for physical activity. Feeding guidelines listed on food bags are at best a recommendation as each pet has individual nutritional needs. Treats are fun and can be useful, but they are not nutritionally balanced and should never exceed 10% of your pet’s daily food intake. Here at Valley Animal Hospital, we’re always happy to lend a hand if you aren’t sure about which foods to avoid feeding to your pet or how much of what type of food to feed.
We have several high quality prescription diets and fun weight loss techniques that can help them shed some pounds. We’d be happy to schedule an appointment so that our pet doctors can perform a physical exam to assess your pet’s current body condition score and rule out any medical conditions that may be causing weight gain.
Weight Loss in Cats
Allowing our cats to graze on food bowls that are always kept full, also known as free-feeding, along with sedentary indoor kitty lifestyles, are the main contributing factors to feline obesity. While some cats seem able to self-regulate, most will eat more than they should if given the chance. Meal times are always recommended, not only because we can regulate the amount of food each cat eats, but we can also more readily notice when their appetite changes or decreases.
Dry cat food is higher in carbohydrates than wet cat food, and even though feeding kibble may be more convenient for some of us, it has been shown that cats fed strictly wet canned food do maintain a healthy weight more easily. Kitty playtime can be fun for the whole family and increases your cat’s level of exercise as they exert themselves playing with interactive toys, tall cat trees, feeding balls and agility games. Rapid weight loss should always be avoided with cats, however. Slow and steady is the way to go.
Weight Loss in Dogs
In dogs, obesity is more common in certain breeds such as:
- Labrador Retrievers
- Miniature Schnauzers
- Shetland Sheepdogs
- Cocker Spaniels
- Basset Hounds
Keeping our dogs regularly active is rewarding not just for our pets, but also for us. Daily walks in the cool morning or early evening hours keeps bodies and minds alert and active. Check to see if your community has a canine agility course or well-kept dog park where you and your dog can learn some new tricks and meet new friends while remaining physically active. Feeding higher fiber foods approved by our veterinarians is another way to bulk up your dog’s diet while limiting their calorie intake.
Weight management, proper nutrition and exercise is important for all pets. Although the approach you take may be different depending on whether you have a dog or cat, it’s important to be mindful of what they eat and how they stay active. Call us at Valley Animal Hospital to let us help your pets start the path to a leaner and healthier life.