According to a recent study, overweight problems are not limited to humans but affect their furry friends as well. The study found that more than 50% of both dogs and cats in the United States are either overweight or obese which puts them at an increased risk of a number of health problems including diabetes, heart disease and joint problems. And just like their human owners, overweight and obese pets have a shorter lifespan than their healthy-weight counterparts.
Causes of Weight Problems in Pets
Weight problems in pets can be caused by a number of factors. In both dogs and cats, the risk of overweight and obesity increases with age-related decrease of physical activity. Another risk factor is breed as large breed dogs are more prone to overweight issues. A very common cause of weight problems in pets are also their human owners feeding them with too many calories, typically through treats and people food. Sometimes, however, weight issues in animals can be a symptom or complication of an underlying medical condition such as hormonal imbalances and hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland).
Assessing Your Pet’s Weight – How to Determine if Your Pet is Overweight?
Before putting your pet on a diet and increasing the level of physical activity, you should first assess his/her weight and overall health to make sure that excess pounds are not related to a health problem. You can find many tools and guidelines to assess your pet’s weight online but the easiest and safest way to determine whether your pet needs to lose weight is to visit your vet. In addition to assessing your furry friend’s weight, your vet will also assess his/her overall health and help you create a weight loss plan that is safe and suitable for your pet based on his/her current weight, age, activity level and health status.
Weight management plan for overweight pets is virtually the same as that recommended for their overweight human counterparts: reduced daily caloric intake and increased level of physical activity.
To cut calories in your pet’s diet, you should first make a thorough assessment of all the foods (including treats) he/she normally eats, its amounts and frequency. Then calculate daily caloric intake and determine how many calories less your dog or cat should eat to lose excess weight. Be sure, however, to consult your vet, especially if your pet has a medical condition. In the latter case, your vet may recommend prescription diet food which was developed especially for overweight pets with health problems.
In addition to dietary changes in the form of reduced caloric intake, weight management plan for pets also foresees increased physical activity. Examples include regular walks and the use of treadmill for dogs, and toys encouraging physical activity for both dogs and cats.
You are recommended to have your pet’s weight loss monitored by your vet. He/she will also provide you with advice and guidance on how to help your furry friend maintain a healthy body weight when reaching it and live a happy, healthy and long life.