According to a 2018 pet owner survey, 60 percent of cats and 56 percent of dogs in the United States were overweight or obese. Excess weight can reduce your pet’s life expectancy by more than two years, and can significantly diminish their quality of life. Our team at Gentle Touch Animal Hospital would like to help ensure your pet lives a long, happy life by providing tips to manage your pet’s weight.
How does excess weight affect my pet?
While your pet is not bothered by the excess pounds when they look in the mirror, additional weight can cause several consequential issues, including:
- Chronic inflammation — Fat cells produce adipokines, which contribute to numerous inflammatory processes throughout the body, causing a chronic low-grade inflammatory state. This state primes the tissues for a more robust inflammatory response when additional stimuli are present.
- High blood pressure — Obese pets are at higher risk for high blood pressure, which can cause sudden blindness, neurologic signs, kidney disease, and bleeding disorders.
- Kidney disease — Overweight pets have higher levels of hyaluronic acid, a thick substance that damages the kidneys, resulting in kidney disease.
- Respiratory disease — Fat tissue along the chest wall and abdomen compresses the lungs, making breathing difficult.
- Diabetes and insulin resistance — Obese pets have fewer insulin receptors on their fat and muscle cells, so they cannot effectively use the insulin.
- Cancer — Estrogens, insulin, and chronic inflammation caused by excess fat are all proven ways obesity leads to cancer.
- Osteoarthritis — An obese pet’s excess weight causes more stress on joints, resulting in cartilage breakdown. Also, inflammatory compounds produced by fat cells increase oxidative stress on the joint tissue.
Tips to manage your pet’s weight
Now you know that keeping your pet slim and fit is important for their overall wellbeing, our American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)-accredited veterinary professionals at Gentle Touch Animal Hospital offer a few tips that will help you manage your pet’s weight.
- Take your pet for a wellness visit — Certain conditions such as endocrinopathies and metabolic disease can cause weight gain in pets. Regular wellness checks will allow our veterinary professionals to track your pet’s weight, and evaluate them for serious issues that may need to be addressed.
- Know how many calories your pet needs each day — To know how much you should feed your pet, you will need to determine the calories they need per day. The feeding guidelines found on your pet’s food is calculated based on active adult pets for all life stages, which may not be accurate for your pet. When determining your pet’s ideal caloric intake, you must consider several factors, including their weight, body conditioning score, muscle condition score, lifestyle, and coinciding medical conditions. Our team at Gentle Touch Animal Hospital will help you determine your pet’s caloric requirements.
- Feed your pet more frequently — Several small meals require energy to digest. You can take your pet’s total daily ration and divide the food into three to six portions to feed them every four to six hours. This also keeps your pet’s insulin levels stable, and they stay satiated all day long.
- Feed your pet high quality food — Find a food that lists a high quality animal protein as the first ingredient. Many processed foods are high in carbohydrates, but your pet needs a food that is higher in protein than carbohydrates, and contains whole, fresh foods. Foods containing fiber and moisture will help keep your pet satisfied. When changing your pet’s food, make the transition gradual, to prevent gastrointestinal upset.
- Limit your pet’s treats — Treats should contribute no more than 10 percent of your pet’s total daily calories. Begging is attention-seeking behavior and not related to hunger. Fresh vegetables, such as carrots, celery, broccoli, green beans, and cucumbers, are all good choices for healthy treats. Save processed treats for special occasions, keeping the portions small. Ensure you subtract each treat’s calorie count from your pet’s overall daily calorie allotment.
- Safely exercise your pet — Most pets should be exercised at least 20 minutes twice daily. If your pet needs to lose weight, they may require more activity. You should start slowly, and gradually increase their exercise over several weeks, to allow them to adjust and avoid injury. Walking is the easiest exercise for most dogs. Cats tend to enjoy chasing laser pointers or wand-like toys. Any activity that will get them moving will work. Once your pet becomes more fit, you can include them on fun outings to make the experience more enjoyable.
- Set realistic goals for your pet — Work with our veterinary professionals to determine your pet’s ideal weight, and a realistic time frame to accomplish this goal. Working toward a goal will help you stay committed to the plan.
You love your pet, and want them to be around for a long time. Helping them reach a healthy weight will increase their chances of living a long, healthy life. If you would like to discuss your pet’s diet plan, do not hesitate to contact our team at Gentle Touch Animal Hospital, to schedule an appointment.