Did you know that more than 50% of pets are considered overweight or obese?
A recent study showed that pets who are at their healthy weight live an average of two years longer! Because so many pets are overweight, many people believe their pet is at a healthy weight when it is actually much heavier than desirable.
Is Your Pet Overweight?
What Are The Signs?
Does Your Cat or Dog..
If any of these signs sound like your pet, use this chart to determine your pet’s risk of developing painful or life-threatening conditions.
If your veterinarian has determined that your pet is carrying a few too many pounds, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that over 50% of pets in the United States are overweight or obese, and those numbers are increasing. Obesity is more than just a problem with your pet’s appearance. Obesity is a medical problem that can have serious health consequences. The good news is that weight loss – even in small amounts – can result in a significant improvement in your pet’s health and quality of life.
What are some of the the health risk of obesity in pets?
Joint disease is one of the most common health effects of obesity. The excess weight adds extra strain to joints and ligaments, worsening pain and making it harder to move around. Obese pets often have trouble going up stairs, jumping into cars and beds, or simply going for a walk.
Does your dog huff and puff on walks or your kitty gasp and wheeze after playing? Excess body fat can increase pressure on your pet’s lungs and interfere with normal function. When expansion of the lungs is restricted by fat in the chest cavity, the lungs have to work harder to provide oxygen, which can result in shortness of breath.
Does your dog or cat seem to have less energy? Those extra pounds may be putting a strain on your pet’s heart. Obesity can be associated with high blood pressure, or hypertension which, just as in people, can lead to a variety of complications.
Increased Risk with Surgery
Excess body fat makes surgery more challenging for the surgeon, hindering access to internal organs and tissue, thus, prolonging the procedure which, in turn, increases the risk of complications associated with anesthesia. For these reasons, elective surgery is sometimes postponed until weight loss.
Have you noticed you dog isn’t as interested in chasing after a ball or your cat now sleeps 23 hours a day instead of just 20? Those extra pounds can slow your pet down, often due to a combination of the conditions just listed. Owners whose pets have lost weight reported noticeable improvements in their pet’s energy level and willingness to play.
Losing weight is not easy but, with time and commitment, you can help your pet get back in shape. Even a small amount of weight loss can have a dramatic effect on your pet’s health, improving quality of life and reducing the risk of serious health problems.
Unfortunately, dogs and cats aren’t known for their self-restraint. Generally, if you present them with food, they are going to eat it. Here are some ways to help get your pet motivated for weight loss while not making them feel like they are being punished!
How Can You Help?
Treating Your Pet
Do you let your dog lick the dishes every night or always let your cat drink your leftover cereal milk? Patterns like these can be hard to change because your pet expects food rewards. But snacks or treats can add a surprisingly high number of calories and potentially interfere with a weight loss plan. Try combating “snack factor” damage by substituting another type of treat – play, a walk, or petting. Realistically you may still want the option to use food treats, at least occasionally. Be sure to consult with your veterinarian about appropriate choices. With you veterinarian’s permission, here are tips for successful snacking and other ways to treat your pet.
- Make treats small! A food treat should be about the size of your pinkie fingernail. Often pets are not particular about the kind of treats as long as they receive something. Some of your pet’s normal food should be the appropriate snack size, so set aside a portion of his daily dish to use as rewards. Treats require portion control. Calculate the total number of small food treats that can be included in your pet’s daily intake and stay strictly within that maximum.
- Choose low-calorie “goodies”! Fresh or frozen vegetables are excellent food treats; carrots, green beans, etc. Some fruits are great options as well; berries, bananas, or apples. Take note that grapes are toxic to pets so avoid feeding them.
- Make treats last! “Puzzle” toys or KONG-type toys where finding a treat becomes an activity can make the treat last longer and keep your pet entertained.
- Beware of calorie pitfalls! Calories sometimes hide in sneaky places…the remaining cheese sauce on a dinner plate, melted ice cream, the butter-coated knife in the dishwasher, etc. High fat foods can be dangerous and even small quantities of these high-calories items can significantly disrupt a weight loss plan.
- Some treats don’t have be food-related at all! Take your dog on an leisurely stroll and let him sniff as much as he wants. Gather up a bunch of toys and test your pet to see which he likes the best. Go on a car ride, remember to be safe though! Love and pets go a long way, not only does your pet benefit but it also provides you health benefits!
- Make it fun! Like most pet owners you probably have a backyard or place you let your dog out to run and this is a daily exercise. Maybe you have a couple toys laying around to entertain your cat and hope that is enough to entice your pet to play. Unfortunately most pets won’t exercise when they are left alone. As an owner, you want what is best for your pet – freedom to play- but you don’t want to turn that play into work.
Most people don’t equate exercise with fun. In reality, exercise is healthy for your pet’s body and mind. Exercise can be used as a reward for your pet – giving you the added benefit of time to bond. Here are some tips that could turn work into reward!
- Make a friend! Taking your dog to a local dog park can be a treat for both of you. Your dog can run with some friends while you have a chance to share tips and relax with their companions.
- Go fetch! For dogs and cats alike (though cats may not ALWAYS bring it back), this seemingly boring game to you but can be very entertaining to them. A favorite toy and a safe area to run can lead to a very happy pet. Just a few safety tips: Don’t use a stick for your game of fetch; many dogs are injured this way. Keep your throws low to the ground to avoid injury to your dog’s legs when jumping. Don’t play fetch upstairs, lest your cat forget that gravity works.
- Routine play! On your normal walk, set up a small obstacle course with a fallen tree, or hide a favorite toy along the way. Trek through the snow or shallow water to add resistance to the workout.
- Exercise can go swimmingly! If your dog likes water, swimming can be a great exercise. Water provides a soothing space for your dog to generate full use of their joints. A short swim can provide the same amount of exercise as a hard run, without unnecessary stress to the body and joints. One word of warning…DO NOT try this with a cat, even in the bath tub!
- Indoor fun! In cold or inclement weather, fun can be found indoors. Sign your dog up for an agility or obedience class. Dogs (and their owners) can play and learn at the same time!
How Can PCAC Help With Weight Loss?
We want to partner with you in your efforts to tackle your pet’s weight issues. Our clients are having great success with our weight loss challenge. Some are using diet and exercise alone and some are feeding their pet Hill’s Prescription Diet Weight Management, but all are checking in frequently and getting help and encouragement. Let us partner with you in your efforts to get your pet healthier!