Is your pet overweight? You might be surprised by the answer. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 58 percent of cats and 54 percent of dogs in the United States are overweight.
Many pet parents think their furry friend’s weight is normal when their pet is actually overweight. The association calls this a “fat pet gap,” in which a chubby pet is identified as normal.
The bad news is that an overweight pet is more susceptible to many health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, arthritis, skin infections, breathing problems, liver disease, kidney disease, diabetes and some cancers. In fact, the Purina Lifespan Study found that obesity decreases a dog’s life expectancy by up to 2 1/2 years.
What can you do to help assure your pet is happy, healthy and at a proper weight? The first step is to bring your pet pal to our clinic for regular preventive care exams. Ask us if your pet is overweight. If the answer is yes, we can provide suggestions and guidance to get him back in fit form. We can also provide advice on maintaining the proper weight for pets who are currently at a healthy weight.
One of the components we can discuss is how much and what type of food your pet receives. It is not a good idea, and potentially an ineffective response, to simply reduce the volume of a pet’s current food. There are scientifically formulated nutritional products to help with healthy and safe weight reduction in both dogs and cats. The thing to remember is that a diet needs to be well-balanced. Caloric and protein requirements vary with age and exercise. It’s important that we examine and discuss all these aspects of your pet’s life to determine what type of diet is best for your pet.
Don’t forget about the calories your pet is ingesting in treats. Just a few treats a day can add up, especially in a cat or a small dog. There are several alternatives to high-calorie commercial treats: make homemade, healthy treats for your pet; consider low-calorie commercial treats; reward your pal with fruits and vegetables, such as apple slices; or simply offer verbal praise, loving hugs, belly rubs and behind-the-ear scratches.
The final piece of the puzzle is exercise. Walking, swimming, fetch and remote-controlled toys are some of the ways you can engage your pet in physical activity. Even simply tossing a toy around the house for your cat or dog to chase will help.
It is recommended that dogs get at least 30 minutes of activity a day; with cats, strive for three 5-minute intense play periods. Make your play sessions enjoyable, entertaining and interactive. The more you can do so, the more you and your furry friend will both look forward to them! If your pet hasn’t been getting regular exercise, start out slow. An injury could result if you ask too much of your pet too quickly.
You can also divide your pet’s food into multiple bowls and scatter them around the house so more movement is required to find them. Both dogs and cats can benefit from the use of food balls, which are toys that dispense food a little at a time. If you choose to use one of these, your pet will have to chase the food ball around to get the kibble out.
Always check with us before making exercise or diet changes for your pet. We want to make sure any changes made will be positive steps toward better health for your pet pal.