Just like people, overweight pets can face a litany of health issues. A healthy diet may save your pet’s life! The potentially devastating consequences of obesity include:
- Trouble breathing
- Greater risk for heat stroke
- Orthopedic concerns
- Compromised immune system
- Reduction in life span
- Mammary tumors (particularly in un-spayed females)
- Skin conditions
- Heart problems
- High blood pressure
How do I Start
Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to start your pet on a safe diet and exercise program. You may want to check with your personal doctor before increasing your own activity.
Your Veterinarian Will Discuss the Following With You:
- A history of what you feed your pet and how much exercise your pet gets.
- Food – The doctor will see if you may be open to changing what kind of food you feed or if you want to feed the same food but need help with the quantity you feed- it is important to measure. The doctor will also discuss a reduced calorie food, or feeding less of regular calorie food.
- Treats – The doctor will discuss what treats you give and may be able to offer some healthier alternatives.
Get Your Overweight Pet Exercising:
The doctor may make the following recommendations:
- Going for walks
- Playing with your pet
- Getting a dog walker
- Looking into “Doggy Daycare”
How Long Will it Take to See Results?
Aim for gradual weight loss and expect significant improvement to take several months. A goal would be a loss of 1% to 2% of the initial weight per week. It is important to get the whole family into healthy pet habits. This is essential to the success of the weight loss plan.
All pet foods are not created the same. While quality is certainly measured in protein and other nutrients, attention to your pet’s specific needs is also important. There are pet food formulas specifically for puppies and kittens, active breeds, seniors, and even healthy weight formulas for dogs and cats that are overweight. Inexpensive pet foods most often do not use premium protein ingredients. You should expect the first ingredient in any pet food you select to be a good protein source like chicken, fish, or eggs. Premium proteins are digested much more easily and offer optimal nutritional value. Your veterinarian can lead you in the right direction on selecting a food. Introduce the new food gradually, as it may upset your pet’s digestive system. The complete switch in foods can take a couple of weeks.
Exercise for Overall Health:
- For dogs, a regular walk to the mailbox each day is a great exercise primer, especially for small or sedentary breeds. A longer walk even twice a week can have its benefits. Anytime you can, opt to take a longer route in your normal routine with your dog. Playing toss with a ball or toy is a rewarding workout that can help lower weight and reduce stress. Dogs, like people, often eat when stressed and lowering stress can reduce some of their urge to overeat.
- For cats, try finding toys your cat is interested in so you can engage them in daily playtime. Different cats like different types of toys; your main goal is to activate their instinctive desire to chase prey. A few popular options you can try include laser toys, stuffed mice with catnip, and sticks with stringed toys attached.
- Select snacks for your overweight pet that do not work against the weight loss program. There are many fat-free snacks on the market, but that does not mean you can give your dog an unlimited supply. The calories add up and can sabotage any hard work you and your pet have done. Limit snacks to once or twice a day in small doses. As an alternative to treats offer a single piece of kibble from your pets dry food. For dogs, raw vegetables like baby carrots also make a nutritional, low-fat treat.
What if There are No Results or Extremely Slow Results?
Be sure that your pet is not being fed additional food that is not on the plan. Your veterinarian may want to check to be sure that there is not a medical reason underlying their weight problems such as:
- Low thyroid level
- Hormonal imbalances, such as Cushing’s disease, an excess of adrenal hormones