Losers on Leashes
December 21, 2012
It is time to start working off those holiday pounds and your pet pals should probably do the same. Roughly 40 to 55% of pets are estimated to be overweight and at least a third of those are obese. Let’s reverse this unhealthy trend this January, which is National Walk Your Dog Month (who knew?).
Why should you care? Overweight pets suffer from many of the same ailments as overweight people, including diabetes, debilitating arthritis, high blood pressure, heart disease and increased rates of cancer. Ignoring obesity is like ignoring any other chronic disease and it results in worsening of the complications. And obesity is a completely preventable disease! Why wouldn’t you want to join in the campaign to fight pet obesity?
Most people don’t even realize that their pet is overweight. Maybe it is because the weight came on too slowly to notice, or the pet owner simply doesn’t know that pets should have palpable ribs and a visible waist. Your veterinarian can help you determine if your pet is overweight. If he or she is, then join this year’s Losers on Leashes weight loss challenge and help your pet lose that extra fat.
First, find out from your veterinarian how much weight your pet should lose and set a goal weight. Then start following these rules of thumb:
- Pets are meal feeders. Our primarily carnivorous pets, if left to their own devices, would eat one big meal and then not eat again for 24 or more hours. And, they would have to work for their meal. They are not meant to be grazers. Pets that nibble on their dry food all day long tend to get fat. This isn’t always true, but it is something to think about changing if your pet is fat. Feeding a good meal once or twice a day is often sufficient.
- Treats are the true nemesis. For every treat you feed your pet, you need to remove that number of calories from the main meal. You can read pet-food labels to determine which treats have the lowest calories and try to use those or simply break treats in half to decrease calories. Pets do expect treats at certain times, but they don’t care if that treat is large or small. They are just excited to get their treat at all.
- If it is bad for you, it is bad for your pet. So potato chips, fried chicken and ice cream are going to make your pet fat. Low-fat microwaved chicken breast, carrots and broccoli probably won’t.
- There are lots of foods, and even a medication now, that will help patients lose weight, so, really there is no excuse not to pursue true fitness for your pet.
- Pets should lose about 1-2 % of their body weight per week and no more. Rapid weight loss, just like in people, usually results in regaining of the weight over the next year. Rapid weight loss in cats can be very dangerous, so keep it slow and steady.
- Pets won’t lose weight without a coinciding exercise program. Dogs should be walked a minimum of 20 minutes twice a day. (You may have to slowly work up to this if your dog is very overweight) Ball playing and swimming are also excellent exercises for dogs. Cats need encouraged play-time. If you spend 20 minutes with a toy or laser-pointer at bed-time, cats rest more easily and let you sleep later in the morning.
- Use a peg-bowl to slow down those rapid eaters. Use a feeder-ball for cats. They have to bat these around to get the food to drop out, so it is an excellent way to make cats work for their food.
To join Losers on Leashes, come in to Bees Ferry Veterinary Hospital at 3422 Shelby Ray Court to register and learn how to qualify for a free bag of Royal Canin Food. There will be prizes for the dog who loses the most weight (based on percentage of body weight), the cat who loses the most weight (based on percentage of body weight) and one for the dog/owner team who logs the most miles walked.
Even if you don’t join an organized weight-loss campaign, take your pet’s weight seriously in 2013. His or her quality of life will be greatly improved and it might mean that he or she is around a lot longer. So, watch what you feed your pets and GET WALKING!!