As we look forward to a new year, many of us set goals related to weight loss. Unfortunately, many of our pets would benefit from shedding some excess pounds as well. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 53% of dogs and 58% of cats are overweight or obese. Some common disorders associated with excess weight are diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, high blood pressure, and many forms of cancer. Overweight pets have a shorter life expectancy due to these complications.
The first step in pet weight loss is a visit to your vet. Pets should be screened for diseases that can lead to weight problems. Your vet will weigh your pet and help devise a treatment plan for weight loss. Weight loss can be achieved through diet modifications and exercise in many cases. Altering the amount of food or treats may be enough, however some pets need a different diet for results. For example, a typical kibble of cat food contains 2-3 calories. Cats in the wild usually eat 8-10 small meals daily, and mice average 30-35 calories each. Using this formula, cats can only eat about 10-15 pieces of kibble each day. Switching to a higher protein and lower carbohydrate diet may help relieve the wave of punishment your cat will inflict upon you if you reduce their ration to this degree, and help avoid nutritional deficiencies. Your vet will help you determine the ideal weight for your pet, and can make dietary recommendations based on your pet’s individual needs.
Exercise is also essential for healthy weight. Dogs often enjoy walks, structured play time, and visits to parks. In winter weather conditions, dogs may prefer a walk around pet-friendly stores, an indoor play date, or activities at a local training facility. Cats can also be trained to exercise. If your cat prefers not to walk on a leash, instigating strenuous play with a variety of toys can help if done consistently every day. For cats that resist exercise, try moving food bowls to inconvenient areas of the house, or set up multiple feeding stations in which daily rations are randomly rotated. This encourages cats to walk around the house to find food.
Managing your pet’s weight can be challenging. If weight loss is part of your New Year’s Resolution, be sure to include your pets. Your efforts may help your goals as well.
Kristin DeVries, DVM
Pet Medical Center
4450 128th St., Urbandale, 331-9035