Pet Tips

Obese and Overweight Cats and Dogs – Pet tip 156

Just like us, pets that are overweight are at a much higher risk of developing a number of health conditions. Problems like arthritis, heart disease, respiratory difficulties, and diabetes are among the long list of issues seen in dogs and cats who weigh more than they should. Unfortunately, unlike in humans, obesity in pets is often not taken very seriously. While pet owners are diligent about getting their animals spayed/neutered and vaccinated every year, they often brush aside any comments made about their pets’ weight. In reality however, being in control of your animal’s weight may be one of the best ways to promote their health and maximize the years you have together.

It can sometimes be difficult to notice weight changes in your own animals when you see them everyday. To determine if your pet’s weight is healthy, there are a few key features you can pay special attention to. The first thing to do is to feel along your pet’s chest palpating for their ribs. While you shouldn’t be able to see their ribs, you should be able to feel them quite easily, with only a small layer of fat overlying them. This is also true of the bones in their tail area. When looking at your pet from the side, the area behind the ribs should be distinctly narrower than the chest area. This is called an ‘abdominal tuck’, and while it varies between animals, it should be visible in all healthy dogs and cats. Finally, if you look at your pet from above, you should be able to see a definite waist just behind their ribs. If the waist area is the same width, or even wider than the chest area, your animal is most certainly overweight.

If you feel that your pet is overweight, it is important to seek a veterinarian’s opinion. Excess weight is almost always due an animal eating too much, exercising too little, or both, but it is always a good idea to rule out any other medical conditions that could be the underlying cause of your pet’s problem. Once you are confident that your pet is otherwise healthy, you can begin a weight reduction program with your veterinarian’s guidance.

The best way to help with your pet’s weight is to feed them an appropriate diet that is adjusted to their specific calorie requirements. This is something your veterinarian can help you to determine. An animal that needs to lose weight should be fed 80% of their maintenance energy requirements at the very most. Some veterinarians will recommend as low as 50% of their normal caloric needs. This will allow them to burn existing body fat for energy, leading to weight loss.

There are two main ways to decrease caloric intake. The first is to simply feed your pet less food. So while you might normally feed your cat or dog two cups of food a day, their diet could have them down to just one. This reduction in volume is usually done fairly gradually and under a vet’s guidance. The other option is to feed your pet a special calorie-reduced diet. Foods like this are available at some pet stores and at most veterinary clinics by prescription. The best part about these foods, is that your pet still gets their normal volume of food, but gets less calories in each bite. Also, these foods are generally high in fibre which helps your animal to feel full.

In addition to reducing the calories your animal eats, it’s a good idea to increase the calories they burn by giving them lots of exercise. Of course, if your animal is severely overweight, there may be limitations to how much they are able to run and play. It’s a good idea to start off slowly and gradually increase the length of your walks or play times.

To make the most of your pet’s new diet and exercise regimen, you should make sure to monitor their progress. This means weekly weigh-ins, and if you’re up to it, keeping a log of their food intake and exercise each day. If they appear to be losing weight too quickly or too slowly, then you may wish to re-evaluate and modify their weight-loss program with the help of your veterinarian.

It may sound like a lot of work, but once you get into this healthy routine, you and your pet will quickly reap the rewards. Your pet will be healthier, happier, and more energetic. As an added bonus, you might find yourself in better shape as well.

Once your pet is back down to a healthy weight, make sure to keep up the good work. Maintaining a healthy weight is just as important as losing the excess pounds. This is true not only for pets that have recently lost weight, but for all pets—everywhere. The very best way to combat obesity is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. With the proper combination of diet and exercise, every pet can reach their ideal weight.

By Alison Norwich – writer

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