As the New Year begins, that familiar theme of beat the bulge, drop those holiday inches and weight loss resolutions besiege us humans. Unfortunately, pets gain weight just as readily as we do, with the same detrimental affects. The American Veterinary Medical Association reports that 40% of dogs and 30% of cats in the United States are obese. Amazing considering that there are people in this country without enough to eat! Our animal companions are very well nourished, apparently to the point of being unhealthy. Just like us, obese animals are more prone to heart disease, diabetes and kidney disease. They tend to have more problems with their joints, such as arthritis and knee problems. Furthermore, they have decreased resistance to infections and delayed wound healing. Makes you want to stop giving Fluffy and Fido those table scraps – right??
To determine if you pet is overweight, all you need to do is place your hands along the side of the chest and attempt to easily feel the ribs. If the ribs are felt readily than your pet is in normal body condition. Having to push through layers to feel the ribs indicates that there is a little too much body fat beneath the skin. This is a warning sign of problems ahead. Obese animals may be cute to look at, however, they suffer by decreased mobility and shortened life spans. The best thing that you can do for your precious pal is to start the year off right and start a new approach to diet and exercise.
Just like we are recommended to consult our physician before starting a weight loss program, if you feel your beloved animal companion is packing a few too many pounds it is best to consult Drs. Carlson or Lullo. Special restricted diets are available to suit the specific nutritional needs of your pet, avoiding improper diet selection. Weight loss regimes can be developed by your veterinarian to help your furry friend to attain the ideal body weight and keep it. Cats typically may lose ¼ pound per week and dogs anywhere from ½ to 1-1/2 pounds per week depending on the size of the canine. Charting the weight loss is great to see the difference weekly and watch the goal weight get closer and closer.
Animals suffer from the same syndrome that many of us do, too much food and not enough exercise. We can decide to go for a walk, jog or aerobic class. Pets cannot usually exercise unless we accompany them. Therefore, we must decide that exercise for us is important and customize it to fit our daily lifestyle. Perhaps an early morning stroll with Fido or a zippy game with Fife after dinner would work for your schedule. Since there are no treadmills for pets (that I am aware of !) we have to be creative and dedicated to increasing our companion’s activity. Obedience training may work to burn a few extra calories and cultivate a well-mannered creature. Libraries are excellent sources for information, as well as your favorite bookstore. Many park districts offer affordable behavior classes and trainers who specialize in obedience can be found in your community. Consult us for referrals or ask your neighbor with the always-polite dog on the block.
Food is an important part of all our lives and animals often seem to live for mealtime. We already discussed how to keep the little darlings busier but we now need to focus on what we are giving them to eat. Often times we buy a high quality diet at the pet store, give them the amount recommended on the bag and then bombard them with treats! There goes the high quality diet…. Treats can be a substantial source of calories, with certain treats being 100 calories or more, especially those that look like types of human treats. Light treats are best and pets do not realize if you give them a half treat, so break them all in half and put them in a bowl. Low cal snacks can be mini carrots, plain popcorn, or even ice cubes. When selecting a food, ask Drs. Carlson or Lullo first and blend the new food in over a week or so in order to avoid any gastrointestinal upset. Ask how much to feed and measure the amount out in a cup, mark on the side of the cup so it is clear for everyone to see. By keeping the same cup in the bag of food we can prevent over feeding. Split up the meals into 3 or 4 small feedings so your companion maintains a fuller tummy throughout the day and begs less, therefore creating less guilt for you. Remember you are following this regime for the health and well being of your beloved companion. The overweight pet may need to be separated for mealtime from the others, perhaps in a laundry room or bathroom. Pick up remnant food from the other pets so there are no options to over-indulge.
As your furry friend loses the extra pounds, you will notice a friskier, happier companion who will live longer and be stronger! Good luck to you all!