It was determined that obesity affects more than half of pets in America, in a recent national study. An overweight pet is more susceptible to arthritis and joint disease, spinal trauma, heart and liver disease, high blood pressure, airway obstruction, diabetes mellitus, urinary obstruction and certain types of cancer. Most pet owners do not recognize that their animal is overweight, or even obese. The chart below should offer a little guidance on what the ideal body condition should appear as in your pet:
The best approach to weight loss for pets is exactly the same as it is in people: a combination of reducing calories and instituting an exercise program. Work with your veterinarian to create the best exercise program for your dog. Set aside the same time each day to exercise your dog—make it a habit. Start your dog off slowly, with walking. Then, as your dog gets into better shape, move on to games that call for running, such as “fetch”. If you don’t have time to exercise your dog, ask a friend or dog walker to do it. For obese dogs, one can follow the feeding guidelines offered in the pet food calculator in the links below. But generally, most owners are feeding their obese dogs by an excess of 30% by volume, in our experience. An initial calorie restriction of 25%, then, is generally going to put the dog on a safe track to weight loss, with possible future calorie reductions needed. This can be easily confirmed by regular weight checks. If weight loss seems too rapid, discontinue the restriction and see a veterinarian. But more often than not, additional calorie restriction is usually justified by confirmation that weight loss is still not occurring, or to a very minimal degree. If weight loss is occurring at a reasonable rate, continue the program until the ideal body score index is achieved and then titrate the diet slowly back to where weight is stable (neither losing nor gaining weight). Do not resume feeding to the original volume that got the dog obese in the first place! Instead of food as treats, try puzzle toys that dispense treats infrequently, such as the “Buster Cube“, or the “Busy Buddy” brand toys, which includes the “Kibble Nibble”, and the “Magic Mushroom” and Kong brand toys, and a variety of ‘smart toys’ by OurPet’s. Consider PlayCare services, such as “FRAH-Lick“, offered by our hospital and kennel as a way to burn some additional canine calories while you are at work. (see this here link to our playcare). Adopt a new activity that can be as much fun for you as it is for your dog! Take your dog to the park, to the beach, on a hiking trail, to dog friendly social outings. If you must give treats, try low calorie treats, such as natural raw veggies, Hill’s low calorie treats, and Lean Treats. Do not hesitate to consult a veterinarian if you are having trouble with weight loss or you are not sure of your pet’s proper body score index.
In cats, try offering small amounts of food in a variety of changing places in the home. As the cat realizes that he needs to look for the food around the home, you can increase the challenge of finding the food by placing it in increasingly more difficult places for the cat to locate. This will tend to make the cat explore the home more and bother you less when he feels hungry. You could also try a treat or food dispensing toy such as the “Egg-Cersizer“. Also, if you are leaving the house to go to work for the day, pick up the food so that the cat does not eat out of boredom. Feed the cat on your return, and again, place small meals in multiple locations. Increase exercise with laser toy stimulation, ping pong ball chasing, and “Cat Dancer” brand toys. Try catnip treats instead of food treats. Some cats really love low calorie green peas and some love cantaloupe, as treats! These changes in your cat’s husbandry will also increase your cat’s mental stimulation and provide some environmental enrichment for those indoor-only kitties.
For more information and tools to combat pet obesity, visit the association of Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) and the Ohio State University, College of Veterinary Medicine’s Nutrition Support Center. At the Folly Road Animal Hospital, we offer several medical tools for assisting pet owners with weight loss programs in their obese pets.
A new diet that shows a lot of promise in early clinical trials is Hill’s Prescription Diet: Metabolic Advanced Weight Solution (canine and feline.)This food utilizes “nutrigenomics,” where ingredients in the food activate gene expression, helping to increase metabolic rates naturally and burn calories more effectively. A program of weight loss with this diet begins with an appointment at the FRAH, a veterinary exam, morphometric measurements, and a Pet Obesity Panel. This blood panel contains tests for baseline evaluation of the general health of the patient as well as a set of screening tests to evaluate for common endocrine disorders affecting the weight of the patient including diabetes, adrenal disease and thyroid disease. In addition, parameters to evaluate metabolism are included. The feline When scheduling your appointment, specify that you are interested in this Hill’s Healthy Weight Protocol Program.