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The Home Vet of Boulder: Pet Weight and Health

Pet Weight and Health

Many owners don’t think much about their pet’s weight; however, obesity in pets can lead to many of the same health issues that we see in overweight people. Over the years, the extra pounds can even shorten your pet’s life!

A recent study showed that “ideal weight” labradors lived an average of 2 years longer than their overweight counterparts. Also, overweight pets often suffer from health problems that degrade their quality of life in their later years.

Health Problems:

There are many health problems associated with a pet being overweight. These problems, ranging from minor pain to life-threatening illnesses, can be seen in dogs, cats, small mammals and even birds:

Arthritis: Your pet’s body size can “weigh” heavily on their joints and spine. Over time this extra pressure can lead to the inflammation and bony changes known as arthritis. Arthritic joints cause chronic pain and may result in your pet “slowing down” before their time. It can also create a need for daily medication to lessen the pain.

Lethargy: Heavy pets may have a significantly lower tolerance for exercise, resulting in general lethargy. This lethargy may simply be the result of your pet being “out of shape”, or may be due to a larger health problem brought on by excess weight. In any case, the end result may mean that your pet does not have the energy to enjoy its life to the fullest.

Diabetes: Just as with people, overweight pets are at a higher risk of developing diabetes. Diabetes is frighteningly common in overweight cats, but can also be diagnosed in dogs and other pets. Once diagnosed, diabetes can be hard to regulate and manage, requiring daily medication and frequent veterinary visits.

Heart Disease: Being overweight puts a lot of unnecessary strain on an animal’s heart. All that extra body mass means that the heart is pumping harder and more often than it was designed to. Over time, this extra work can damage the heart and ultimately lead to heart failure.

Clogged Arteries: Overweight pets can suffer from clogged arteries, just as their owners can. While it is not tremendously common in dogs and cats (because they don’t live long enough for the plaque to build up) it is very common in pet birds. Clogged, thickened arteries (arteriosclerosis) is usually caused by years of eating fatty foods (such as seeds and nuts), being sedentary and being overweight. As with humans, arterial sclerosis can lead to heart disease or even stroke.

Knowing the dangers that being overweight presents, it is obvious that being at a healthy weight is as important for pets as it is for people. Luckily, the keys to a healthy weight are the same for pets as for people: health, exercise, and diet.

Helping Your Pet Lose Weight

While losing weight is never easy, it is not impossible, even for you pets. Having a plan and sticking to it is key, and having medical support on your side can go a long way towards helping you reach your goal.

The steps to pet weight loss are the same for pets as for people: medical monitoring, healthy diet, exercise and realistic goals.

The Keys to Weight Loss:

Medical Monitoring: Before one begins any major weight loss plan, it is important to consult with a doctor. In the case of your pet, a visit to a veterinarian is in order. A thorough physical will help assess your pet’s general health, and a blood test may help rule out any hidden ailments which may either be at the root of your pet’s weight problem, or may make diet and exercise unsafe.

Your veterinarian can also help you set up a healthy diet plan for your pet, as well as reasonable exercise and weight loss goals. Regular trips to the veterinary hospital for weigh ins can help you monitor your pet’s weight loss while providing encouragement and support.

Healthy Diet: Obviously excessive caloric intake is at the root of most weight problems. As such, reducing calories is key to pet weight loss.

Monitoring your pet’s food intake is vital for any weight loss plan. It is normally recommended that you feed your pet a measured amount twice daily. This way, you know exactly how much food your pet is getting per day, while splitting the feedings allows your pet to utilize the calories more evenly throughout the day.

When helping a pet lose weight, most owners chose to start with store-bought low-calorie foods. This, along with exercise, may be enough to get your pet on the right track. Often, however, owners find that store bought foods don’t help enough. In this case, a prescription weight loss diet may be necessary.The Home Vet of Boulder can prescribe special diets to help your dog or cat lose weight.

Exercise- Exercise burns calories and helps get the metabolism burning calories faster. For sedentary pets, it is important that an exercise program start slowly. Begin with short walks or exercise periods and increase over a matter of weeks and months.

Again, consultation with a veterinarian is important. A veterinarian can help create a realistic and safe exercise plan that, along with a good diet, can help your pet lose weight, become fit and help it stay healthy.

Realistic Goals: It is important that owners have realistic goals when trying to help their pet lose weight. For instance, a small dog who is overweight at 20lbs may only lose a few ounces per month, whereas a giant-breed dog may lose 2 pounds in that same time span.