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It is the opinion of this practice that obesity is the single most common preventable factor leading to a decrease in quality of life for our patients. Excess weight is a serious health problem for dogs and cats and is common in many countries. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), 43% of all dogs and 53% of all cats are classified as overweight. What's worse is that an additional 10% of all dogs and 19% of all cats are considered obese! Therefore, more than half of our dogs and cats are overweight or obese. The two main causes of obesity are too much food and too little exercise. Other contributing factors can be due to hormonal influences, certain genetic factors, and other disease processes.
If you pet is carrying extra weight, it will:
- Increase the risk of heart disease by forcing the heart to work harder.
- Increase the risk of arthritis as extra weight can stress the joints, cause joint pain, and make it harder for your pet to move around comfortably.
- Predispose them to breathing problems, skin and hair coat problems.
- Make them much more prone to diabetes.
- Increase the likelihood of them suffering and ACL (knee ligament) tear.
All of these problems can make your pet uncomfortable and limit the way they interact with you and other family members. There are a number of factors to consider when attempting to get your pet to lose weight. First and foremost you can greatly increase your chance at successfully shedding some pounds by sitting down with your veterinarian and setting up a comprehensive plan to lose a certain amount of weight. One of the key steps to weight loss is meal feeding. Most dogs if they have food in front of them all the time they will tend to over eat. The only guarantee in medicine is that if you feed your nothing but water they will lose weight. Obviously the correct amount of food for them is somewhere between what they have been getting and nothing. A ground-breaking study actually details how pets who free feed live an average of two years less than pets with limited calories.
Tips to help your pet lose weight:
- Start your pet's diet with a trip to the veterinarian. A thorough physical exam and blood tests can help rule out diseases that can cause weight gain.
- Pets who are fed controlled portions of food live about two years longer than those who have unlimited access to the food bowl.
- Throw away the self-feeders and designate one person in the family to feed the pets. Feed a few small meals instead of one large meal.
- Get your pet on an appropriate food, possibly a prescription weight loss diet.
- Replace high calorie treats with healthy alternatives like green beans or carrots.
- Increase your pet's activity level. Two brisk walks daily for your dog can help both of you shed the excess weight.
- Try to spend about thirty minutes each day playing with your cat. Kitty Teasers and laser pointers can really help them lose pounds.
- Follow up with your veterinarian and adjust your pet's diet and exercise routine as needed.
Your veterinarian can help determine if your pet is too heavy and together with your input setup a plan for achieving their ideal weight. The most common comment we hear from people who have had their pet on a successful weight loss program is how much younger and active their pet is now that they have shed the extra pounds. Please give us a call if you are unsure if your pet is overweight or you are unsure how much to feed your pet.