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Achieving a Healthy Weight for Your Pet

Achieving a Healthy Weight for Your Pet

By Mark Hale DVM

Bolivar, MO


            According to recent studies, nearly 35% of pet dogs and cats are overweight. Many owners don't realize that they are over feeding their pet or are feeding a diet that could cause weight gain. If left untreated, obesity greatly increases the risks of certain life-threatening diseases. These can include heart disease, diabetes, pancreatitis, arthritis, high blood pressure, and skin problems. Implementing a successful weight loss program for your pet may be a challenge, but it is worth it because obesity isn't just something that affects your pets' appearance- it negatively affects your pets' quality of life.

            Not all foods are alike when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight for your pet. Your veterinarian will work with you and recommend the correct food for your pet to achieve an ideal weight based on size, breed and sex. If weight loss is needed, a clinically proven, veterinarian approved weight-loss food will allow healthy weight loss in a controlled predictable manner when these foods are fed in the right amounts. To maintain an ideal weight, a veterinarian-recommended maintenance diet will provide a healthier alternative to some commercial diets that can put your pets' health at risk because of an abundance of calories, and too much of certain minerals such as sodium. Be sure to know what your pets' ideal weight is by asking your veterinarian. If your pet is overweight, a weight loss program is the first step toward getting your pet back on track. Weighing your pet regularly and marking the progress on a simple chart can help the program go smoothly. Regular trips to your veterinarian can provide the necessary tracking and recording of actual weight loss, and adjustments to the amount or type of diet fed can be adjusted at these visits if needed.

            Following are some tips for feeding to maintain a healthy weight:

1)      Avoid leaving food out all day long. Avoid feeding table scraps and high calorie treats.

2)      Stick to the recommended feeding guide.

3)      Measure out allotted food and snacks at the beginning of each day to avoid accidental overfeeding.

4)      Keep your pet in another room when preparing or eating your own meals.

5)      If you have several pets feed them separately.

6)      Feed complimentary wet foods and/or treats with dry food.

7)      Keep veterinarian-recommended food on hand during the holidays so you won't be tempted to feed something potentially harmful.

8)      Introduce a new food gradually over a 7 day period, by mixing the former food with increasing proportions of the new food until only the new diet is fed.


            Make sure your pet gets lots of activity. A dog needs an appropriate amount of outdoor exercise. Long walks and playing fetch are a couple of common activities. Some dogs, especially those with arthritis, will benefit from hydrotherapy or swimming. Cats are harder to encourage exercising, but you can try new toys that move or stimulate their chasing tendencies.

            What's the harm of a little extra weight? A couple extra pounds may not seem like much for your pet, but consider what those extra pounds translate to in human weights. For example, 3 extra pounds on a 10 pound cat are equivalent to an extra 38 pounds on a 125 pound woman. An extra 5 pounds on a 30 pound dog are equivalent to an extra 21 pounds on a 125 pound woman.

            You can help your pet maintain a healthy body weight and prevent serious disease by providing proper nutrition, increased physical activity, and regular veterinary wellness visits.