Obesity and Your Pet

Malnutrition. Webster’s dictionary defines it as “faulty or imperfect nutrition.” It is also defined as a lack of healthy foods in the diet or an excessive intake of unhealthy foods leading to physical harm. In 2003 The National Academies’ National Research Council declared that one of every four dogs and cats in the Western world is overweight.

“But my dog likes his treats.”
“What’s the big deal? She’s happy.”

These are just a few of the many excuses I’ve heard from my clients trying to explain away their pet’s obesity.

So here’s why it’s a big deal: Lean dogs tend to live 1.8 years longer than overweight dogs. They stay healthier longer often delaying the onset of chronic conditions, such as arthritis, by as much as 3 years or more. Heart problems, joint problems, kidney problems, diabetes and everything else you can think of could be postponed.

What’s an owner to do? Well, the most important thing, which is also the hardest thing to realize, is that YOU are in charge. Fido and Fluffy are overweight because you fed them too much and didn’t give them enough exercise. They didn’t go to Burger King and get a Double Whopper at midnight!

You can’t resist Fido’s eyes when he is begging for another bacon strip or your cat bugs you constantly unless her food bowl is full. I understand this as I have the same cat. But, for their sake you need to be tough. You’re the Owner; you need to set the rules.

It all boils down to the metabolic level: The absolute only way to lose weight is to burn more calories than you ingest. Period. That’s it. Sounds familiar, right? It’s the same premise for human diets such as Weight Watchers and South Beach. The very first thing you need to do for your pet is cut back on giving treats, snacks and human food. These are generally high in calories and your pet doesn’t need more than one a day. Think about it. How many candy bars do you eat daily?

The second step on this weight loss journey is to feed fewer calories of a good quality, low-calorie maintenance diet. This ALWAYS starts with measuring the amount of food you feed. If the bag says give 1 ½ cups and you just dump the food in the bowl, I guarantee you that you are feeding Fido and Fluffy more than you think. Just feeding less than is recommended of a non-low calorie food can lead to a diet that is deficient in vitamins and other important nutrients. Feeding a good quality low-calorie diet means that your pet gets to eat more and get fewer calories due to the food’s formulation, so maybe you won’t get the “sad eyes” treatment as much! There are a number of low calorie diets available but I recommend using a veterinary prescribed diet. These diets will always have all the nutrients your animal needs plus you get professional advice and help to achieve success with a weight loss program. Your veterinarian may also be able to diagnosis any medical conditions such as hypothyroidism that may be contributing to your pet’s overweight condition.

Finally, there’s exercise. Dogs benefit from walking, running around with other animals, or any activity that gets Fido moving. Cats are no exception; cat toys may entice Fluffy to race around the house. Not surprisingly, exercise for you and your pet has been shown to reduce stress, rates of heart disease and diabetes as well as improving overall quality of life. Your pet will likely sleep better. Simply put, what’s good for you is good for them!


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