Our pets are important to us and we want them to live long healthy lives. Feeding extra treats and free feeding have led to an ever-increasing problem of obesity in our pets. It is estimated that 35% of pets in North America are obese.
Obesity causes increased strain on numerous body systems, predisposing them to a variety of diseases such as: diabetes, joint disease, liver disease, heart disease, respiratory disease, as well as significantly affecting their life span.
Weight management in our pets can be difficult. It requires providing the correct quantity of food, and regular exercise. Daily exercise is recommended for all our pets, whether it be walking, swimming or simple play to keep them active.
Serving dogs and cats the appropriate quantity of food is the first and most important step to keep them at their ideal weight. A few extra calories may not seem like a lot but due to their smaller size it can result in a large weight gain. Not all foods are created equally, meaning different foods have different calorie contents, so the amount required for your pet can vary drastically between foods. Following the recommendations on the bag is a great place to start. Additionally, your veterinarian or veterinary technician can calculate the precise energy requirement tailored to your pet and in turn the amount in cups they need of their specific diet per day.
What if Fido or Figaro are already overweight? Decreasing food intake (carefully calculated by your veterinarian), switching to a lower calorie food and increasing exercise are all possible ways to help lose weight. ‘Light’ or ‘diet’ foods found at the pet store are formulated to maintain body weight in animals prone to gaining, not necessarily to lose fat. Prescription veterinary diets are formulated to help our animals lose the fat while maintaining muscle mass, or their lean body mass. There are too many diets to go into individually but I will mention the newest weight loss food from Hills called Metabolic. It is specially formulated to work with your pet’s metabolism to aid them in safely losing weight. This diet is available for both dogs and cats and we have been getting great results on it so far. It is especially good for our feline friends where increasing exercise is difficult at best.
There are situations where no matter what you try your pet may not lose weight. In these cases there may be an underlying medical condition preventing weight loss, which needs to be identified and corrected. In such cases, a visit to your veterinary team is necessary.
Regular veterinary checkups can help you manage your pet’s weight loss and are important for identifying signs of disease to improve your pet’s quality of life.