For those of you who are regular readers of this column, you’ll notice that you have seen this one before. However, it is an important topic and you will see at the end of the article, the reason we are recycling this month.
One of the biggest problems we see in our pets is obesity. Recent data reveals that almost 50% of American pets are overweight. Too much food and too little activity, just like for us, can cause many issues in our four-legged family members. Arthritis, heart disease, respiratory issues, urinary problems and diabetes are just some of the things that excess weight can cause. The mantra for us of “eat less, exercise more” is just as applicable to pets.
There is a plethora of foods available today at supermarkets, big-box chains and specialty stores as well as from your veterinarian. Many of these are advertised as being “lite” or “less active” formulas. The important thing to remember is that in and of itself, those designations mean very little. They only imply that there is less fat and/or calories than their regular formulas. Comparing different brands is like comparing apples to oranges. Unfortunately, at this time, calorie content is not required to be printed on pet food packaging, although that information is available from the pet food manufacturer. There is a movement to change this, but for now it can be hard to decide what foods are truly low-calorie. In general, however, it is true that if you read the recommended amounts to feed on the bag, you will end up overfeeding your pet. It is also important to remember that dog and cat treats can be very high in calories (they are treats, after all) and factor into the daily calorie intake. A single large dog cookie can pack anywhere from 150-400 calories (and there are a few that come in at a whopping 650 calories). When you consider that the average cup of adult maintenance dog food contains around 420-450 calories, you can see that a few treats can add up quickly. There really is no hard and fast rule about how much to feed as it varies considerably between pets. In general, you want to feed enough to have your pet stay in good body condition. You should be able to feel your pet’s ribs but not see them. One of things we do during your pet’s annual or biannual exam is to evaluate his body condition and advise you about changing his diet if necessary. We can calculate the calories needed to lose weight and can help you choose an appropriate diet. Often this will mean a drastic cut in the amount of food you’re feeding. It’s hard to resist those sad eyes pleading for just a little bit more. If you are cutting back the total amount of food, you can add things like carrots, broccoli or green beans. They will make your pet feel full without adding a lot of calories. You can also use them as treats.
It is also important to remember to keep your pets active. Inactivity, just like in people, can lead to excess weight gain and decreased muscle mass. Particularly if your pet is stiff from arthritis, mild to moderate exercise such as walking (forgiving surfaces such as grass are best) and swimming help to limit muscle atrophy and keep your pet physically as well as mentally fit. While exercising cats is difficult, you can sometimes entice them to play with a laser light, feather toy or other captivating moving object.
Blairstown Animal Hospital is sponsoring a canine weight loss contest, starting July 15th. If you have been thinking about getting your four legged best friend in shape over the summer, why not enter him or her in the contest and have a chance to win some great prizes along the way.
There are fifteen open canine contestant spots. The first fifteen to register will be enrolled. To enroll, you need to bring your dog to Blairstown Animal Hospital to be weighed and have initial measurements taken. Each contestant will receive a starter kit of items to support the weight loss goal. Dog owners will need to have their pet weighed and measured each month to be eligible for monthly prizes. The contest will run from July 15th through October 15th. The dogs will be photographed and their weight loss success tracked in the office for everyone to cheer on to victory. Winners will be determined by comparing the percentage of weight lost per dog rather than pound for pound. The grand prize winner will receive a basket of goodies and bragging rights for being the fittest of the bunch. The staff at Blairstown Animal Hospital will be encouraging dog owners with biweekly e-mail weight loss tips and reminders. We are all excited to have your dogs reach their optimum weight!
Owners are not restricted to certain exercise regimens or diet foods. Any dog currently on diet foods, appetite suppressants, or receiving veterinary guidance, are not excluded from participating. We hope to make this a great experience for everyone and achieve some health benefits in the fun process! Remember to come by the office, the contest spots will be filling up quickly.