For many of us pet owners, our pets are just like our kids. We take care of them wholeheartedly. We like them to have a taste of what we eat and like them to experience special treats. In those moments and out of our love for our pets, we at times just forget that they are a bit different to us and their needs of exercise, diet and care are different too!
At times in our Vet practice, we come across a lot of clients whose pets need that type of special attention. We just don’t realize that our pet is overweight or at times underweight. Since weight changes are gradual, the signs can be subtle and thus overlooked. Around 90% of the patients that come in for weight loss programs because owners can now not lift them or see that is pet is having breathing problems, can’t run or play as usual or seem lethargic.
Why does being overweight matter so much?
Even if it is just a little extra, it can be harmful to your fur baby. Even if it is 20% weight gain, your pet is at risk of developing serious health conditions such as diabetes mellitus, arthritis, urinary stones, heart disease, hypertension or mammary cancer. It indeed affects their overall wellbeing, happiness and quality of life. It is also a reason for reduced lifespan as compared to healthy weight pets.
Some Clinical Signs:
- Loss of an obvious waist
- Collar needs loosening
- Slow or Difficulty in walking
- Shortness of breath
- Bad temper
- Sleeping more than usual
- Urinary or Fecal incontinence
- Unkempt appearance and pressure sores
What causes weight gain?
Age, Breed, Neutering\spaying, other medical problems, overfeeding or feeding an incorrect diet can all contribute to weight gain.
Diagnostic tests for cats and Dogs
Cats are usually tested for liver disease, diabetes and other obesity-related conditions. Dogs are tested for hypothyroidism and hyperadrenocorticism. Other tests may be recommended depending on the specific situation of your pet.
Treatment and Follow-ups
Treatments are directed at the root cause of your pets’ weight problem. Weight reduction or weight management involves a lot of steps and a lot of discipline of both the pet and their owners! You and your pet have to make the effort together.
You may need to do:
Exercise with your pet. If it is a dog, you may play tag with them just like kids. It will help them burn that extra fat and improve their attention and metabolism as well. It will also give you both some WE time. You may also want to go for a swim or for a bushwalk. Now is the best season to start.
With increased exercise, also comes a balanced diet. Lower energy, high fibre food intake will help them the most. Make sure you do different exercises or have intervals for one type of exercise. Mix it up to keep you both interested in doing something different every day. A well-designed weight loss program from the vet is highly recommended as your vet would know what would be the best for you and your pet. There are many pet weight loss diets available that you can opt for, but which one has the best nutrition satisfying your pet’s needs; only their vet would know.
Bodyweight is monitored every 2 weeks and the diet and exercise programmed modified as your pet progresses through their program. A 2 weekly follow-up is necessary as some dogs would drastically reduce weight in the first two weeks and then there might be a pause. Thus a change in diet and exercise is required to keep the momentum going. Also, weight loss is difficult in some dogs as compared to others. So, no diet and workout plan would be the same for two pets.
Also, once the target weight is reached, a different regime may be required to be followed. Make sure that Treats, snacks and food scraps comprise less than 5% of the total calorie intake.
In cats, weight loss is better achieved with formulated diets along with exercise. At times, cats can be naughty and steal your other pet’s food. Keep an eye on them. Make sure they are fed only the food that is included in their meal plan and have less treats. A low-fat high fibre meal plan is ideal in most cases. Since getting your cat to exercise can be difficult, a well-balanced meal plan is of utmost importance. It also helps to keep your cats food in different locations so that the need to walk around or jump up or down to get their food. Food feeder games work very well in helping to reduce weight as the cat will have to work around to get fed. Also, cats like to chase lights and toys, so getting them running around toys and lights is also a very handy workout for them. If you are a multi-cat house old, make sure that you feed your obese cat separately as compared to healthy weight cats. Also, pick up the leftover food from the healthy weighted cats as your obese cat may want to have a go at it.
Just like dogs, it is important that your obese cat also has followed up every two weeks. Follow the plan that your vet suggests. Remember you are the BOSS as cats can be stubborn at times and may give you a bit of a hard time during the process.
For both cats and dogs, a regular follow up as you and your vet may need to have an update on obesity-related diseases, monitor progress for the same and make necessary alterations to your pet’s management.
Some pet owners also want to try homemade pet diet. It is important that the homemade diets are periodically evaluated by your vet or you get the correct recipes to match the other prescription diets. If you have any other concerns or questions in terms of your pets weight or overall health, please talk your vet team.