It is that time of year, again! Time for New Years Resolution’s, and for some this typically includes improving overall body health and fitness. This is also the perfect time of year to consider these steps for our furry family members. Obesity among pets has been on the rise in recent years, and is becoming an increasing health concern for veterinarians to address. As pets become overweight and obese, significant risk can be placed on their overall health. An increased risk arises for the development of reduction in overall mobility, earlier onset or worsening of pre-existing arthritis, respiratory difficulty, diabetes mellitus, kidney disease, bladder stones (in cats), or certain forms of cancer. The more overweight the pet, the higher the risk of developing one of these diseases.
The best place to begin discussion of your pet’s weight is with your family veterinarian. The assessment of a pet’s “ideal weight” is achieved through a subjective measurement of “body condition score (BCS)” or “body fat index (BFI).” This is done visually by the veterinarian by assessing various regions of the body (face, head/neck, ribs, abdomen, tail base, shape from the side, and shape from above). By using these points, the veterinarian can best determine if your pet is overweight or obese. Screening tests, such as bloodwork, for pre-existing conditions need to be considered also, as some underlying diseases can cause weight gain in a patient with a normal appetite and appropriate feeding guidelines.
Once a pet is determined to be overweight, then the veterinarian can best recommend what options are available to aid for weight loss. The first step typically taken is a weight loss diet, such as Hill’s Prescription Metabolic diet, Hill’s Prescription R/D, or Royal Canin Satiety, to name a few. It is also important to discuss how much your pet should be fed, which includes daily treats as well. The veterinarian will recommend a weight loss diet plan that is appropriate for your pet. The next step is to increase daily activity, which generally includes increased walks or exercise for canine patients and trying to increase exercise by introducing new toys or cat trees or using food puzzles/hiding food around the house for feline patients. Low-fat treat options that can be used include carrots (raw or cooked, cut into small pieces), watermelon, boiled zucchini, green beans, apples, or bananas. Remember to AVOID toxic foods such as raisins, grapes, nuts, avocadoes, onions, and chocolate, just to name a few. If you are unsure if a vegetable or fruit is safe for your pet, contact your veterinarian for guidance.
Obesity is a growing problem amongst humans in the United States today, and veterinarians are seeing this trend in pets as well. The beginning of a new year offers an opportunity for change for everyone, so why not include our furry family members in the change? Talk to your veterinarian today about developing a healthy lifestyle for your pet.