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New Year, New Resolution: Weight Management for Your Pet

One of the most popular New Year’s resolutions in North America involves making healthier lifestyle choices, becoming more fit and, oftentimes, losing weight.  These resolutions can be beneficial for humans and pets alike!

 

Many pet owners view feeding food as a way to reward their pets for good behaviour, as well as an expression of their love for their pet.  Unfortunately, when overdone, it can have adverse effects on our pet’s health.  Overeating, poor nutrition, and a lack of physical exercise are the most common factors contributing to the development of obesity in our pets. It is estimated that up to 35% of dogs and cats in North America suffer from some degree of obesity.

 

Obesity in pets, just as in humans, is associated with a range of health problems, including, but not limited to: Arthritis (unneeded stress of your pet’s joints), Respiratory Compromise (fat constricts the chest muscles, making breathing difficult), Diabetes Mellitus (extra body fat leads to insulin resistance in cats, often as much as a 50% decrease in insulin sensitivity), Hepatic Lipidosis (a form of liver disease whereby the liver becomes infiltrated with fat and then fails to function as a result), and Increase in Surgical and Anaesthetic Risk (drug dosing becomes less accurate, air exchange during anaesthesia becomes challenging, and organs are harder to visualize for doctors/surgeons).

 

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We all want our pets to live long, healthy and happy lives. A key component in this is ensuring your pet gets the proper nutrition and exercise they need.  Just like with humans, the nutritional requirements change throughout our pet’s lives.  For example, the calorie content required for a puppy or kitten is different than for an adult dog or cat, which changes again as the pet enters their senior years.  The same applies to protein, minerals and vitamin requirements.  If you have questions and/or concerns about the appropriate diet to select for your pet, we are happy to provide a nutritional consultation here at Tower Hill-Bathurst Animal Hospital.

 

Keep in mind that the amount of food necessary to feed your pet is based on calorie content, and thus should be measured accordingly.  Following package guidelines is helpful because they will indicate the amount of food that a pet should be given, based on their weight range.  However, if your veterinarian has recommended a weight loss program for your pet, the feeding schedule may need to be tweaked to fit the weight loss goal.  Speak to your veterinarian about the appropriate amount of food to feed your pet, and make sure to measure food accurately (using a measuring cup).  In addition, feeding “meals” as opposed to leaving food out and encouraging grazing makes it easier to monitor food intake.  For multi-pet households, we encourage owners to feed their pets separately (using whatever ingenious method works for them), to ensure each pet received the type and amount of food required for their health status.

 

When managing your pet’s weight, it is important to be careful with the amount of treats being given to your pet.  For some people, feeding treats to their pets constitutes a major component of the human-animal bond, but considering how calorie rich treats can be, 4 or 5 treats can readily convert into an extra meal.  Consider giving treats sparingly, and monitor who in the house is giving treats (especially children, who can be extra generous with the handouts).  Another option is to use their usual kibble as treats (again calculating for overall calorie intake) because on a per “treat” basis, less calories will be consumed this way.

 

In the event that your veterinarian prescribes a weight loss program for your pet, know what the goal weight is and how long it should take to reach this goal.  Dropping in regularly for check-in weighing will help to monitor such progress.

 

Overall, the best course of action for ensuring your pet maintain a healthy weight is to feed them a prescription diet (available through your veterinarian); feed the prescribed amounts to fulfill their nutritional requirements (but without excess); regulate their intake of treats; exercise (through walks and play-time), and regular visits to your veterinarian. Speak to your veterinarian – they will work hand-in-hand with you to ensure your pet’s weight goals are met!

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