Pet Obesity and Weight Loss

Jan 23, 2020   Tracey Aston   Diet and Nutrition

We've all been there, those cute puppy dog eyes seeming to peer into your soul or those precious kitty chirps and head tilts all begging for a taste of your snack. Our pets sure do know how to turn on the cuteness when they want to sneak a taste. However, as much as it pains us to do it, we must learn to say no. Too many snacks are the leading cause of pet obesity, followed closely by overfeeding. It's a scary statics to report that according to recent findings by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), more than 45 percent of dogs and 58 percent of cats can be classified as overweight or obese!

Obesity in pets can lead to numerous and serious medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, respiratory difficulty, chronic inflammation, Arthritis, increased anesthetic risk and a shortened life span. Due to their body type, as little as 5 extra pounds can increase health risks in pets. The smaller the pet, the higher the risk – a 10 pet who gains 5 pounds will have much more profound risk than an 85 pound pet who gains 5 pounds. 

As with us, it's easier to keep the weight off in the first place than to try to lose weight after the fact. Always feed your pet a quality, well-balanced diet for their body type and age. Puppies will require more protein to fuel their growing bodies, while senior dogs may require a lower calorie food as they may be lying around more and expending less energy to burn off the calories. 

Go easy on the treats and free tastes from your plate. We think how much can one little bite hurt, but those little bits quickly add up to a lot of empty calories for our pets! If you absolutely must include your pet in your snacking or sharing meal time, stick with nutritious, low calorie, high fiber treats, like potatoes, apple slices, baby carrots, broccoli, zucchini or green beans.

It's all well and good if we can keep our pets from gaining weight, but what happens when we realize they already are overweight. First and foremost, before starting any type of diet or exercise program with your pet, check with your veterinarian to rule out any health concerns like diabetes, hypothyroidism or Cushing's disease. 

Once you've been given the all clear from your vet, it's time to get to work. The formula is simple calories burned must exceed calories consumed. Always remember, if changing a pet's diet to do so slowly over time to reduce the risk of gastrointestinal issues. Start by substituting one-quarter of the diet for a day or two, then increase to one-half total volume of food for another day or two, then three-quarter new food for a day or two before finally transitioning to the new food.  

Let's be honest, none of us like dieting and a pet won't readily jump on the bandwagon either. To keep a pet from feeling deprived, feed 4- 6 small meals throughout the day.  If a pet is begging and you simply can't take it anymore, put a few more pieces of kibble in their bowl at a time. Don't throw in an entire handful!  If using a self-feeder, only use an automated feeder than dispenses a certain amount of food. 

The second step to weight loss is exercise!  A pet that is experiencing serious obesity will have to start out slowly not only for their health, but many overweight pets are less energetic and playful. While weight gain is a health concern, losing too much weight too quickly can also cause health issues. Slow and steady will win this race. It's important to work within your pet's comfort zone and slowly increase the length and intensity of the exercise. 

The best way to start an exercise program is a nice, enjoyable evening stroll. Don't push your pet beyond their limits and watch for signs of heavy panting or stress. As your pet builds up endurance you can increase the length of the walk or even take on new terrain like hills and parks.  If you can't get out for a long walk every day, try to exercise your pet at home with a toy, ball or treadmill.  Whatever type of exercise you choose, try to make time for at least ten to fifteen minutes of exercise or play twice a day. 

As much as it seems like it, those extra pounds didn't show up overnight and they won't disappear overnight either. Weight loss is a process and takes commitment and perseverance but it's a worthy process as it will possibly add years to your pet's life and what is a better reward than that? 

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