Warm weather is here, and it’s time to get that swimsuit body ready!
No, not yours -- your pet’s! Like us, they sometimes gain an extra layer of fat over the winter. It starts innocently... we give them a few extra treats... just this once... and then before you know it, their waist is gone! While it seems harmless at the time, an expanding waistline is just as dangerous to our pets as it is to us.
The experts at the Lake of the Ozarks Animal Hospital (LOAH) have seen pet obesity cause:
1. Shorter lifespans with less activity (less fun)
2. Joint problems
3. Heart disease
Is your pet in danger?
Fat pets are the new norm. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, more than 50 percent of American pets are obese, but more than 88 percent of owners believe their pets are a healthy weight. Dr. Katie Rericha at LOAH sees the same trend in Lake Area pets. The most common weight-related problems she treats are bone and joint issues in dogs and diabetes in cats. How can you tell if your pet is in danger? Dr. Katie says the easiest way to determine if your dog or cat is overweight is to feel their ribs: if you can feel the bones, but not see them, they are healthy. If you have to press your fingers in to feel them, or can’t feel them at all, your pet is overweight.
Your pet is overweight, now what?
A number of factors could cause your pet to gain weight: overfeeding, genetics, lack of exercise, or an underlying medical condition. Every pet has an ideal weight range. If you don’t know your pet’s range, talk with your vet and they can help you create a plan to get there.
Overfeeding is a common culprit. In fact, many pet foods suggest feeding unhealthy portions. Dr. Katie recommends feeding your pet for their ideal weight, not their actual weight. Also, feed to the bottom of the range for their ideal weight.
“People food” and treats can also add up and are enemy number one at my house! Dr. Katie's tip? Cut out all treats and people food to help your pet lose weight.
New science suggests that some breeds, like labs and pugs, may be genetically predisposed to weight gain. Metabolism stimulating foods help change how your pet processes fat. If you suspect genetics is involved in your pet’s problem, your veterinarian can recommend a prescription diet that could help.
Of course, exercise is also a factor. A cold, lazy winter at the Lake has probably put a few pounds on all of us. Remember, the more they lose, the more they’ll move! If your pet starts losing weight now, it can make it easier for them to stay active this season.
Weight gain could also be a symptom of a serious medical condition such as a thyroid or heart problem. If your pet’s weight gain doesn’t seem correlated to diet or exercise or it is paired with other symptoms, talk to your vet.
"A dog or cat at a healthy weight will be more comfortable, more active and live longer,” says Dr. Katie. So the next time Sammy and Sneakers beg for a treat, think about the risks associated with weight gain or, take Dr. Katie's advice: “Think of it as a tough love process and don’t give in!”
*This article republished from March, 2015*