Annie here and I would like you to learn about a very important pet epidemic-obesity. I was previously overweight and therefore this topic is near and dear to my heart. With proper diet and exercise I am down to a healthy weight and hopefully this will add years to my life. Here’s Dr. Paroff with great tips for healthy eating and exercise.
We all hear eating healthy and staying active will help keep us healthy longer. It works the same way for our pets. Just what does that mean, and how do we accomplish that? First of all, we do have to think of what our pet weighs. Can we feel the ribs, are they like a washboard and too prominent, or is it like an Arctic Expedition to find the ribs. Unfortunately, most of our adult pets fit into the overweight or obese categories. Part of eating healthy, is portion control and weight control. Our pets should have an easily visible waistline, easily felt ribs and hips as well as well defined muscles. Sometimes there may be an underlying medical condition preventing our pets from being able to maintain a healthy weight, but often we can control weight with diets. When we are unable to control weight, we need to look for medical problems which may need to be addressed.
There are as many answers as there are nutritionists as to what works, but the basics are similar. Every time your pet eats, the metabolic processes driving the digestion of that food uses up some energy. Therefore, several small meals that total the same amount as one large meal will burn more calories simply through the act of digestion. So just simply by feeding several small meals every day, we can help our pets maintain their weight or even lose weight. The digestibility of the food is also a factor that is often overlooked. A highly digestible premium quality food provides a good deal more useable energy to our pets than a less premium diet. Therefore, a middle of the road food is likely the best choice for most pets.
Don’t forget the treats! “Oh she only gets ¼ cup of food twice a day, Doctor “ (I just won’t tell you about the 15 treats that are 50% fat that she gets every day, and the leftover bacon and eggs from breakfast and the grease from the hamburger that I put on her dinner every night!). It is great to see our pets get excited for a treat, but many times, our attention is every bit as rewarding to them, or maybe a walk instead of a trip to the kitchen for a treat. My 65# Shepherd mix gets two of the small breed Milk Bones total per day as treats, and 1 ½ cups of Purina twice a day. Another great tip is to substitute treats with healthy alternatives such as green beans or carrots.
Finally, to keep this from being an entire textbook on the subject, how can we talk about eating healthy, if we don’t talk about exercise? The body can and will easily maintain weight if it is not asked to burn calories. Simply dieting is not likely going to help your pet lose any weight unless you help them get more active. You don’t have to go run a marathon with them, but you do need to encourage them to get up and play every day. There are all kinds of commercials on TV promoting an active lifestyle for us because we now know that it is a healthy choice. Now we need to translate that into an active lifestyle that is fitting for our pets. A 12 year old Persian cat isn’t going to go for a 3 mile walk on a leash every day but one can still encourage them to interact and play with toys. For that 3 year old Australian Shepherd that is otherwise destructive in the house, it may be a minimum starting point. If you aren’t certain what your pet is capable of doing, or is safe for your pet, then by all means talk to your veterinarian.
Douglas A Paroff, DVM
Stow Kent Animal Hospital