Thursday, August 16, 2012
Pet Smarts: Overweight is a problem in pets, too; here are tips for assuring healthy weight
By Dr. Sachiko Miyakawa
Sheabel Pet Care Center
Is your pet losing its waistline and looking a little plump? Is your pet not as active and lying around more? Does your pet pant and get tired easily?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, your pet may be overweight.
(Photo from Flickr. Used through Creative Commons.)
Overweight pets are seen in our veterinary practice every day and a good number of them have health issues. Pets can gain extra weight later in life because of their slowing metabolism, but obesity even in younger dogs and cats is commonly observed.
Since pets have a shorter life span compared to humans it is important to address the weight issue early for their health and quality of life.
The three most important things you can do to keep your pet’s weight at an optimum level are:
1. Biannual exams by your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will recommend blood work and other diagnostic testing as needed to make sure your pet does not have an underlying disease contributing to its obesity. Pets with endocrine diseases such as hypothyroidism, diabetes, and Cushing’s disease can have weight issues. Orthopedic and heart disease can also have an effect on a pet’s mobility and exercise tolerance.
2. Feed high quality food. What your pets eat have a huge effect on their body. Your pet may love a certain type of food because it tastes great, but it may have little to no nutritional value. Your veterinarian will recommend a high quality dog or cat food for your pet depending on their life stage (growing puppies and kittens have different nutritional requirements compared to geriatric pets). The most common reason pets are overweight is because owners are overfeeding them. Commercial dog/cat food will have general feeding guidelines on the bag, but they tend to overshoot in what the pet actually needs to be consuming. Your veterinarian will help determine how much you should feed your pet.
3. Exercise, exercise, exercise. Pets require daily exercise to help maintain a healthy weight. Dogs can release stress and build up their cardiovascular system when taken on daily walks. Playing ball, fetch, agility training, etc. can offer mental stimulation as well to help them become well-adjusted pets. Indoor cats require the same physical and mental exercise on a daily basis. There are many toys that cats love to play with such as the feather wand and squeaky mouse. Most cats enjoy the sight and sounds of the outside world, so providing them with a window seat would be beneficial for their mental stimulation.
Consult with your veterinarian to determine what needs to be done to help your pet lose weight. Every pet is different so your veterinarian will decide the proper weight loss program specifically for your pet.
As in people, weight loss needs to be done over weeks to months in a healthy manner. If you have an obese dog or cat, initiating a weight loss program for your pet could mean not only a healthier pet, but also a happier, more energetic companion.
Dr. Sachiko Miyakawa is a veterinarian at Sheabel Pet Care Center in Lexington. She graduated from University of Kentucky in 2004 and continued on to Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine. For more information, visit sheabelpets.com.