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Obesity in Pets

ObesityObesity has become an epidemic in the US, not only for people but for animals as well. A recent study suggests that over half of dogs and cats in America are overweight or obese. Those extra pounds may seem cute, but they can increase the risk for many health problems such as arthritis, breathing problems, diabetes, cancer, and more. Ultimately, being overweight can shorten your pet’s life. In a recent study, slim labrador retrievers lived an average of 2 ½ years longer than their chubbier counterparts.

How can you tell if your pet is overweight? Run your hands over the animal’s ribs: you should be able to feel them easily. If you cannot feel them, or if you need to sink your fingers through a layer of fat in order to feel them, your pet is overweight. Also, look at your pet from above and from the side: there should be a definite waist, or “abdominal tuck.” If your pet has lost his waist, he is overweight.

Many people express their affection for their pets by giving them treats and table scraps. Unfortunately this extra food can contribute significant calories, especially in cats or smaller dogs. For an overweight pet, your vet recommends cutting out treats altogether or giving your dog or cat pieces of kibble as treats. Vegetables such as green beans or carrots are low in calories when given in moderation, and many dogs like them. For cats, you can give them the juice from water-packed tuna. This is low in calories and also can help increase your cat’s water consumption, which can improve bladder health.

Getting your pet to lose weight may be harder than it sounds. If your pet is slightly overweight you may be able to get him to slim down by simply increasing exercise (daily walks) and cutting out treats. If you pet is very overweight, or if increasing exercise and cutting out treats is not enough, you will need to decrease the amount of food your pet is getting. In order for a pet to lose weight, you must measure each of its meal to make sure the calorie intake is appropriate for healthy weight loss. (Treats should be taken into account too.) Make sure that you use an accurate measuring cup rather than an unmarked cup from your kitchen cupboard, since some mugs or cups may hold 2-3 cups or more. Talk with your veterinarian at Linwood to figure out how many calories your pet needs for healthy weight loss. Your veterinary team may recommend a special weight loss diet to help your pet lose weight without feeling deprived. If you are having trouble getting weight off your pet, blood tests may be needed. Some pets have medical problems such as a thyroid disorder that need to be treated before they can lose weight.

It may seem like a lot of work, but in the end keeping your pet trim will help him live a longer and healthier life. If you need help getting your pet to lose weight, contact your veterinarian for advice.

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