The Weighty Problem:
Obesity is a growing problem with serious health consequences among our adult pet population. Estimates are that over 40% of the adult dog and cat population is overweight or obese.
Being overweight not only predisposes cats to diabetes mellitus, but some studies have found obesity to be a risk factor for feline lower urinary tract disease and feline idiopathic hepatic lipidosis, as well as a factor worsening osteoarthritis and skin diseases. A 14-year "Life Span" study by Purina, found that lean dogs lived longer and had fewer visible signs of aging than their counterparts. Other studies have found a link between canine obesity and a higher incidence of musculoskeletal injuries, difficulty breathing, fatigue, and complications from cardiovascular, respiratory, and other diseases.
If your pet is diagnosed as being overweight or obese, your Westgate veterinarian will likely obtain a dietary history from you, detailing what and how you feed your pet, so he/she can formulate a suitable plan to help your pet lose weight. Your veterinarian may also perform some tests to ensure that your pet doesn't have a disease such as hypothyroidism or hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing's disease) that might be contributing to your pet's weight gain, and to ensure your pet hasn't developed a disease secondary to being overweight. Assuming there are no underlying conditions contributing to your pet's weight gain, as with human's, the likely cause is an imbalance between the amount of calories your pet is consuming and the amount of calories your pet is expending.
The Solution: A Three-Pronged Approach—Diet, Exercise, and Monitoring
1. Diet – reducing the calories consumed
After obtaining your pet's dietary history, your Westgate veterinarian will design a diet to help your pet lose weight. In some cases, you will be able to feed your pet his/her regular food, in a reduced amount, cutting out some treats. If by cutting back on your pet's regular food, your pet would become malnourished and would feel hungry, a special prescription diet may be recommended. A new weight-loss drug, Slentrol, is also available for dogs only. This medication can help many dogs lose weight, mostly by making them feel full, so they eat less on a daily basis, and consume fewer calories. If your dog has a voracious appetite that is hindering weight loss efforts, ask your Westgate veterinarian about this medication today!
2. Exercise – increasing the calories expended
While diet is the most important portion of a pet weight loss program, exercise can also be helpful. An overweight dog would benefit from daily 20 minute walks, in addition his or her regular activity. An overweight cat would benefit from the bursts of activity sparked by playing with toys, or more sustained activity if he or she is forced to "hunt" for hidden kibble or play with a treat ball that is dispensing his or her regular food at meal time.
3. Monitoring – follow-up is essential
To ensure a safe and steady rate of weight loss, we recommend frequent weight rechecks. On any weekday, you can bring your pet to Westgate Pet Clinic for a weight check. Recommended rates of weight loss are about 1-2% of a pet's body weight per week. Checking your pet's weight can ensure your pet isn't losing weight too quickly or that your pet's weight isn't slowly creeping back up. With the help of your veterinarian and a little effort on your part, you can be successful in ensuring your pet isn't part of the growing pet obesity problem!