October 13, 2021
Pet obesity is an important, if albeit, often overlooked problem amongst pets. And since October 13th is Pet Obesity Awareness Day, we want to take a moment to discuss this growing problem (no pun intended). According to a recent study published by Bainfield Pet Hospital Group, dog obesity has increased by 108% in the last 10 years. For cats, it’s a 114% increase. Increased weight is directly linked to a multitude of health issues, and can even shorten your pet’s lifespan. So what can you do to prevent your pet from having weight issues?
See Your Vet.
As with most things pet health-related, it all starts with taking your pet to the vet. While there are some easy visual checks you can do at home to see if your pet is overweight, only your vet can properly diagnose just how much weight your pet may need to lose. Same as people, there is no one weight loss solution for every pet. Together, you and your vet can come up with a regimen tailored to your pet’s needs that is effective and lasting.
Diet & Exercise – the Magic Combo!
For most animals, controlling their diet and increasing their exercise will solve the problem. Simply reducing the amount of food they eat is usually not enough and can be harmful if taken too far. Many vets will prescribe pet food specifically designed to meet your pet’s dietary needs while reducing their overall calorie intake.
This also means no more human food for your pet. We get it, we fall victim to “puppy eyes” too. But proper diet control is key, so if you can’t help but share, try sticking to healthier options such as unsalted, air-popped popcorn or frozen green beans. But keep treats and snacks to a minimum. According to the VCA Pet Hospital Group, only 10% of your pet’s daily calorie intake should come from treats.
Increasing the amount of exercise for your pet depends on a lot of factors i.e. age, medical issues, etc., but any added exercise is helpful. You don’t need to start a new jogging routine, simply adding a few more blocks to your daily walks, or adding some extra playtime with the cat wand, will add up to those extra minutes that make a difference. If it’s difficult to find those extra minutes during the day, consider hiring a dog walker (ahem) or pet sitter to give your pet the added exercise. Like many things, reducing your pet’s obesity is a marathon, not a sprint so don’t be too hard on yourself if results are slow to be seen.
Stick To It
The hardest part of any diet regimen is that it requires a change in lifestyle. And sadly, according to the Bainfield Report, only about 10% of pets successfully lost weight after being diagnosed as obese. For those that did lose the weight, around 40% gain it back. Those are some alarming numbers. So what can you do to stick with it? One of the best ways is to have your pet weighed at the vet’s office on a monthly basis. You’ll be able to monitor your pet’s success and with your vet’s guidance, make adjustments to continue on the proper course. Having someone else to hold you accountable is a powerful motivator.
While working on your pet’s health, this can also be a good time to work on yours! Science has found that on average, pet owners live longer and healthier lives than non-pet owners. So reducing your pet’s obesity will not only extend their lives, it will extend yours as well! Massive changes are difficult, so start with small adjustments and over time, you’ll change your and your pet’s habits for a better life.
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Brock Casper is the Southwest Region Team Manager for Rover-Time. He’s been part of the RT team for over two years. He lives in Cleveland with his partner, Laurel, dog Loki, and cat Coltrane.