Weighty goals for avoiding pet obesity in the New Year

By Dr. Megan Dundas
Rhinebeck Animal Hospital

At this time of year, many of us are making ambitious and challenging New Year’s resolutions. If striving to improve your health is your goal for 2014, why not include your pet?

According to a 2012 survey by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 58.3 percent of adult cats are overweight, with adult dogs not far behind, at 52.5 percent.

What’s the problem with a few extra pounds?

Just like human, pets with excess weight can face a wide variety of health problems. They include: disease of the joints and spine, chronic inflammation, cancer, pulmonary and cardiovascular disease, exercise and heat intolerance, pancreatitis, anesthetic complications, decreased life expectancy and, for cats, diabetes mellitus. A Nestlé-Purina study found that lean dogs lived nearly two years longer than heavier ones (which is quite a while in dog years!).

Is your pet among the overweight or obese? I challenge you to ask yourself this question and answer it honestly. A helpful guide, which will allow you to make an objective assessment, can be found at: www.petobesityprevention.com/pet-weight-check/.

If your answer shows your pet is overweight, fear not. With time and consistency, your pet can achieve a leaner, healthier profile in 2014. First, schedule a consultation with your veterinarian so you can set a realistic goal and outline a detailed — and healthy — weight loss plan for your pet.

The general rule for any successful weight loss plan is to cut back on the amount that you feed your pet and provide ample opportunity for exercise. Your vet may advise feeding a specific calorie amount per meal or a food formulated specifically to promote weight loss. Don’t forget to count treats as part of the total daily caloric intake.

Because cats have a naturally sedentary nature, it can be more of a challenge to get them to lose weight. Try increasing your cat’s activity time by using chase toys or a laser pointer. Cats will better self-regulate the amount they eat if they are fed moist cat food.

Keep in mind that many dogs and cats will continue to beg for food (mercilessly and almost irresistibly in some cases) regardless of how much they have already eaten. Having the proper plan in place will help you fight the urge to give them one more treat. Weighing your pet every two to four weeks initially will help keep you (and your pet) on track to a healthier future.

There is so much that we don’t have control over when it comes to the health of our pets (e.g. genetics, accidents, etc). One thing we do have control over is their weight. Making a New Year’s resolution to keep your pets lean — and enlisting your veterinarian’s help — is one proven way to improve their quality of life and extend the amount of time you have with them.

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