Pet Weight Loss: Battling the Bulge

A terrier jumping to catch a frisbeeWhen it comes to your pet’s weight, there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that obesity increases your pet’s odds of developing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease, respiratory problems, osteoarthritis, and a variety of other health conditions that can severely impact quality of life.

The good news is that pet owners have more options than ever to help pets maintain a healthy weight and potentially add years to their lives.

Is My Pet Overweight?

According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, an estimated 58% of cats and 54% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese. Many pet owners are so used to the sight of chubby pets that it can be hard to determine whether or not pet weight loss should be a priority.

Use the following guidelines to determine if your pet should weigh less:

  • When looking down at your pet’s back, his or her ribs should be easily visible and felt behind the shoulder blades. If you can’t see or feel ribs, your pet is overweight.
  • When viewed from the side, the abdomen (just above the hind legs) of a healthy pet should have a “tucked up” appearance.

Pet Weight Loss 101

It’s no secret that the keys to successful weight loss are eating less and moving more. Overfeeding our pets (which is easier to do than most pet owners realize), combined with extended periods of inactivity, contribute to weight gain.

Consider the following when it comes to helping your pet maintain a healthy weight:

  • Portion control – Pet foods vary widely in nutritional and calorie content, as well as in manufacturer’s guidelines for how much to feed. Your veterinarian will help you determine how much food your pet needs each day and give you recommendations for brands.
  • Treats – Treats, especially store bought varieties, can add significant calories to a pet’s diet. There are many ways to cut down on calories while still giving your pet a treat, including breaking treats in half, substituting cooked vegetables or fruit, such as pumpkin, apples, or green beans, or by removing a few pieces of kibble from your pet’s meal and giving those as a treat at a later time.
  • Behavior modification – Take the focus off of food by placing your pet’s bowl down at mealtimes only, and removing it once your pet has finished eating. If you normally give treats as a reward, offer attention, praise, or snuggles instead.

Exercise, Exercise, Exercise

Pets should have plenty of opportunities for age-appropriate physical activity and play each day. Daily walks, games like Frisbee or fetch, and indoor play, such as feather chase, ball toss, and agility training, provide mental stimulation and burn calories at the same time.

Time for a Swim?

Overweight pets can see significant benefits from exercise performed under water. The resistance offered by the water helps to build muscle and improve blood flow with minimal impact on joints. At Barton Heights Veterinary Hospital, we are proud to offer a state-of-the-art water therapy pool where pets can experience supervised exercise with full range of motion.

We are committed to help your pet maintain his or her ideal weight and enjoy life to the fullest. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with your questions or concerns regarding pet weight loss.