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Treating Your Overweight Pet

If your pet could make a New Year’s resolution would it be to lose weight, should it be to lose weight?  We are all guilty of showing love through cookies and treats. Such expressions of love literally add up… in pounds that is!  Did you know that obesity can lower your pet’s life expectancy, and contribute to illnesses such as diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, and some forms of cancer? There is no better time than the New Year to start your pet on a healthier path, but what can you do? We’ve got some tips for how to help your overweight pet get healthy again.

Calculate Calories
This is where it all begins!   Knowing how much your pet is eating in a given day is very important.  Pets, like people, must be in a caloric deficit in order to lose weight.  Your veterinarian will advise you on how many calories to feed your pet per day to achieve weight loss.  If you have been overfeeding your pet we will recommend a slow reduction in caloric intake.  A drastic reduction may cause illness. Slow and steady wins the weight loss race.

Consider the Type of Food
If reducing caloric intake isn’t resulting in weight loss, or your pet is extremely hungry after the reduction, your veterinarian may recommend switching to a “light” pet food, or even a prescription weight loss diet.  Pet foods specific for weight loss are lower in calories per volume of food due to being higher in fiber.  They often contain higher levels of protein which has the added benefit of increasing satiety.  Thus, your pet can consume a larger volume of food without extra calories.

Increase Activity
Go for a long walk around the neighborhood. Get out the ball. Go for a hike. Make your cat hunt for kibble- putting some on high perches or shelves. A good feather wand can provide excitement and exercise for your indoor kitty too. Staying active helps to keep muscles strong and joints moving and has the added benefit of burning calories.

Monitor Treats
As few as 30 extra calories per day can translate into huge weight gains, especially in smaller pets. All treats must be calculated into your pet’s total daily caloric intake, otherwise your weight loss plan will be thrown off course. Consider breaking commercial treats into smaller pieces or switching to baby carrots, green beans, celery, sliced apples, or bananas.  For cats, try a flake of salmon or tuna.

What if you do all the above and your pet is unable to lose weight?
Hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease are examples of underlying medical conditions that could contribute to weight gain in dogs.  Blood tests will determine if your dog suffers from either condition.

After you and your veterinarian have devised a weight loss plan, it is critical to monitor success. Your pet will be weighed and progress assessed with your veterinarian monthly until an ideal weight is achieved. If there is no significant change, the program will be reassessed and modified. We are here to help you both every step of the way.  Schedule your appointment now…good luck and get moving!

Written By: Tara Corridori, LVT