Just like pet parents, our fur babies are at risk to pack on unwanted pounds, and whether our pets are obese or just a bit overweight, this extra weight can translate into health problems. There are quite a few factors that can play a role in weight increase such as:
- Lack of exercise
- Mobility problems
- Medical problems
And just like us, excess weight in pets can be a gradual process. We may even attribute it to heavier or fuller fur coats in the winter. We adapt to thinking that our pet’s plump look is normal, and the next thing you know, you have an overweight dog or cat.
Aging, medical and mobility problems may be out of our control, but food and exercise are not, and they play a crucial role in preventing obesity. So, today we will discuss the obesity issue of our dog and cat.
Health Implications in Obese Dogs and Cats
Overweight and obese pets are at increased risk of:
- A decline in quality of life
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Joint strain
- Kidney disease
- Less stamina
- Lower immune system defense
- Type 2 Diabetes
And they may run more risk with general anesthetics in the event of surgery. So, as pet parents, it’s up to us to take the lead in preventing weight gain in our beloved four-legged family members.
Because weight gain is usually gradual over an extended period, weighing your pet and evaluating overall health at regular intervals is a good place to start for keeping weight under control. And fr that we may need to follow several methods, exercises, and diet.
How Do I Know if My Pet Is Obese or Overweight?
A quick home method is to feel around your pet’s abdomen when they are standing. You should be able to feel both their ribs and the animal’s spine with minimal fat. You should also be able to feel an upward slope of the animal’s stomach and this slope should be visible when the animal is viewed from the side. Stomachs should never hang low or to the ground.
If you cannot feel a tuck in the shape of the abdomen and your dog or cat appears to have a solid tube shape, then you most likely have an overweight pet. At this point, it’s important to contact your vet about the seriousness of the excess weight and to develop a plan for weight loss.
Other Signs of Excess Weight
Watch your dog or cat when taking a walk or playing. Are they playing or moving less, or do they stop for breaks sooner? Are they less interested in engaging in play? Do they have a hard time keeping up with you or with other pets? These may be signs of excess weight or related to other problems influenced by excess weight.
Simple Steps for Reducing Pet Weight
Initially, it’s important to consult your veterinarian because your pet’s weight gain could be linked to underlying medical conditions. Should that not be the case, and your vet suggests a weight-loss strategy, there are some simple things that you can do right at home.
- Reduce your pet’s calorie intake. This can be done by either selecting a pet weight-loss food or by reducing the portion of food.
- Increase exercise and movement. After consulting your vet, increase daily exercise. This should be tailored to the kind of pet you have, breed, age, and any medical considerations. It may be as simple as increasing your walking distance or the number of walks in a day. You may also consider a dog treadmill which will allow you to exercise your pup more frequently from the comfort of your living room.
As Dr.Hannah Godfrey from TheVets.com explains, “Every dog will need at least short walks to go to the toilet every day unless they have access to a garden or outdoor space. Ideally, they should have at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, but the exact amount depends on their breed, energy level, size, and age, as well as their health.”
While you can do this on your initiative, it’s important to get your veterinarian’s opinion if your pet has an underlying medical condition that has not been diagnosed. This may include food allergies or intolerances and may require a dog food that is grain-free or without specific ingredients.
Dinnertime and Treats
When dinner time rolls around, introduce these habits into your feeding routine:
- Do not feed your pet from the dinner table. Leftovers and scraps from your plate can quickly contribute to adding weight.
- Weigh or measure your pet’s food. Don’t guess how much food you are giving. Follow the manufacturer’s recommended amount or your veterinarian’s instructions.
- Treats should be given sparingly, and they should be specifically created for pets. Also, consider looking for low-calorie treats if you are used to giving them quite a few. If using treats during training, select bite-sized low-calorie treats.
Consider AAFCO compliant pet foods that are labeled “light”, “low-fat”, “low-calorie”, “reduced-calorie” or “reduced-fat” with your veterinarian’s guidance. These foods, despite being designed to aid in weight loss, must still meet the minimum nutrition requirements for dogs or cats.
A Final Thought
The best place to start in keeping your pet a healthy weight is in your veterinarian’s office. Your vet will be able to assess your pet’s weight while considering the breed, age, neutered or spayed, and any medical issues present.
Set goals with your vet’s help. Feed a nutritious dog or cat food, eliminate leftovers, and keep treats to a minimum. There are many ways to show a pet that he or she is loved. If they are feeling happy, they will do whatever we say to them.
Make feeding and exercise fun for your pet. Monitor and write down your feeding habits, daily exercise, and any treats that are given. The better you maintain your commitment to your pet’s weight and health, the better your pet’s chances are of living a long, healthy, and quality life.