Help your pet live a long and healthy life
By Lisa Nicklanovich
When we give our pets treats, table scraps, and hearty helpings of food, we do it out of love. Too much of a good thing, though, can be bad for our fur babies. That’s why October 14 is designated as National Pet Obesity Awareness Day to remind pet owners to keep their pets healthy.
Currently, more than half of all domestic dogs and cats are classified as clinically overweight or obese. This equates to nearly 50 million of each nationwide. Not unlike humans, overweight animals can have serious health issues, including diabetes, arthritis, decreased life expectancy, high blood pressure and cancer. What can pet owners do to make sure their pets are a healthy weight to prevent disease and live longer?
The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) recommends several easy ways to do a body weight check on their website, www.petobesityprevention.org. If you are concerned your pet could be overweight, visit your veterinarian to establish a Body Condition Score (BCS) which will determine your pet’s current weight status for certain.
The APOP website offers suggestions for questions to ask your veterinarian. It is important to rule out if any extra weight is due to a medical condition before changing your pet’s diet. APOP cautions pet owners to not put pets on a diet without working with a veterinarian to ensure your pet is getting the proper nutrition it needs. Once the right amount and type of food has been determined, stick to it, even if it is tempting to give treats and table scraps.
Ask your veterinarian how much weight your pet needs to lose and how long it will take to reach that weight. Each pound lost will be significant – one pound lost in a canine is the equivalent to five human pounds – so have a plan that encourages a gradual decrease in food over time. APOP’s general guideline for safe weight loss in dogs is 3% to 5% body weight loss per month.
Of course, exercise is an important part of the process. Is your pet getting the right amount of activity each day, and does it fit with their physical ability and intellectual interest?
According to APOP, your pet’s weight is one of the most influential factors of longevity, quality of life and disease prevention, so it’s up to us as pet owners to help them live longer, healthier lives.