Keeping your pet at a healthy weight is one of the most overlooked keys to a happy, healthy life. It can also be one of the most difficult tasks to undertake without knowing the vital factors that contribute to your pet’s weight. Talking to your veterinarian and creating a plan to reach and maintain a healthy weight is best but can be daunting. With this information and some solid questions to bring to your appointment, you can be confident speaking about your pet’s weight to your veterinarian.
Obesity is often discussed in veterinary appointments as it can lead to many long-term health issues. Maintained obesity can lead to diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, as well as joint and mobility issues, ruptured cruciate ligaments, or nonallergic skin conditions. Excess weight gain can also be a sign of other health issues as well. For example, hypothyroidism or hyperadrenocorticism (also called Cushing’s Syndrome) can cause excess weight gain. Conversely, rapid wight loss can signal health issues such as diabetes, a tapeworm infection, kidney disease, or cancer. Rapid and/or extreme weight changes should always be checked and discussed with your veterinarian.
So, you were told that your dog or cat is overweight, now what? Based on their conformation (how they are shaped and structured) your veterinarian can determine how overweight your pet is and suggest an ideal weight. Getting them down to that weight can be a long process and patience is key as a dog should only be losing 3-5% of their starting weight per month. The two main components of pet weight loss are diet and exercise.
The easiest change to your pet’s lifestyle is diet. Portion control can be done by measuring each meal. The feeding recommendations on your pet’s food is a good place to start. However, discuss with your veterinarian what you should be feeding based on your pet’s lifestyle, current weight, and goals. The difficult part of diet is not supplementing the subtracted calories with treats. By replacing high calorie treats with things such as carrots, celery, and green beans you can keep calorie intake low and still reward your pets.
The other side of the weight loss coin is exercise. Depending on schedules, lifestyles, and environment you may have to get creative with this one but by making it a priority every day to get some type of activity in with your pet, it can be done. If you aren’t able to give your dog a big area to run and play in there are plenty of creative indoor activities: try a laser pointer, hide treats around for them to hunt up, throw a ball inside. For cats try giving them things to climb as well as things to chase. Either way, taking an active roll in keeping your pet active will benefit you as much as it does them.