One thing is clear: dogs and cats who maintain a healthy weight live longer, healthier lives. There are significant health concerns associated with being overweight for our pets, including osteoarthritis, diabetes, respiratory compromise, fatty liver disease, increased anesthetic risk, and more.
If your pet is overweight, your first consideration should be a wellness exam with your regular veterinarian to determine what a healthy weight range is. They will likely discuss a body condition score and a target weight. Don’t rely on Googling “What is a healthy weight for a lab?” because some labs are naturally larger than others. The same goes for other breeds.
Your veterinarian can help guide you through a gradual, healthy weight loss program for your pet. This program will focus on two methods: calorie reduction and exercise. Typically, a feeding schedule will reduce caloric intake by 20% and is best achieved by feeding a measured amount of a prescription weight loss diet. Be aware that treats count and shouldn’t make up more than 10% of your pets’ intake. Regular weigh-ins at the vet’s office will also be in order.
The second method for weight loss is increasing exercise and activity. Walking, running and fetching at a dog park are good ways for your dog to exercise more. Fortunately, this can coincide with exercise for us, too! For cats, there are many options for indoor play, many of them low-cost, like laser pointers or wand-type toys.
Consult with your veterinarian before you start a pet weight loss program, and then be sure to periodically check in to ensure that the method you select is safe and effective.
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Emily Kalenius, DVM