Many of us commonly set goals surrounding our health and wellness as we roll into a new year. These types of goals are not just beneficial to us, but also for our pets! At Dogwood Veterinary Clinic, here in Louisville, Kentucky, nutrition and body condition are extremely important in our evaluation of your pet’s overall health. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention found in 2018 that 59.5% of cats and 55.8% of dogs are overweight or obese. In this blog post, we will discuss why this is so detrimental to your pet’s health and what you can do to help your pet become happier and healthier.
Pets that are overweight may seem happy and healthy, but the truth is that if they are maintained at an appropriate body condition, they will be more comfortable, happier, and will even live longer! Nestle Purina’s longevity study found that lean fed dogs lived 15% longer, which translated to 1.8 years longer than the control group. The control group also needed medical intervention for chronic conditions sooner than the lean fed group. Below are a few of the medical risk factors associated with obesity in pets (AHAA 2014).
- Orthopedic disease- not only arthritis, but also severe orthopedic injuries such as a herniated intervertebral disc or a torn cranial cruciate ligament (the equivalent to the human ACL).
- Skin disorders
- Metabolic and endocrine disorders such as diabetes
- Respiratory disorders
- Kidney dysfunction
- Chronic inflammation
- Decreased lifespan and quality of life
Now that we know why maintaining an appropriate body condition is vital to our pets’ health and well- being, here are some steps to ensuring that your pet is in the best possible health.
1. Schedule an evaluation with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian can discuss with you some concrete goals as to what you should see physically as you achieve weight loss and what an ideal weight should look like for your pet. Your veterinarian can make recommendations regarding diet and caloric intake. Your pet should also be evaluated for any conditions that may affect your pets recommended exercise.
2. Reducing calories and portioned feedings. Your veterinarian can really help in this area. They can recommend a high protein, low calorie diet. Your vet can also calculate your pets daily caloric needs and recommend a daily calorie amount to help your pet lose, gain or maintain a certain weight as needed. Portioned meal feedings are extremely important, especially for cats. Leaving the food out all day gives pets the opportunity to steal food from other housemates and overeat.
3. Weigh ins. At Dogwood Veterinary Clinic we are happy to have our clients drop in to weigh their pets any time. This can help you and us to track your pet’s progress. Then we can decide to adjust the weight management plan as needed.
4. Regular exercise. Similarly, to fitness plans for ourselves, we wouldn’t want to go from our couch to running a marathon! Work with your veterinarian to make an exercise schedule that is safe and maintainable for you and your pet. Make sure walks include a brisk pace for a small duration of the walk, to increase your pet’s heart rate. Leisurely walks with lots of sniffing and bathroom breaks won’t be as effective in increasing fitness. Increase the amount of time at the brisk walk gradually.
5. Get the whole family involved. It is so important that the entire household is involved in the process and is in support of the decision to increase your pet’s nutritional health. One slip of hotdog or bacon can really set back progress, not to mention could lead to pancreatitis!