As summer approaches and we get more active with our dogs, it’s important that we are both in the best of health.
Now, this all does sound a bit silly but being “in shape” is no laughing matter. Our pets have a short life compared to us, so the more time we can have with our loved furry companions the better. Research has shown that dogs and cats of the correct weight for their build can live several years longer than their overweight companions. The study also showed that disease conditions that affect the quality of life (such as osteoarthritis, cardiac disease, diabetes and respiratory disease) are much less prevalent in the slim dogs and cats as well.
How do we tell if our pets are the “right” weight?
We use a system called the body conditioning score. This rates the animal’s body shape and fat levels on a scale 1 to 5.
What you can do if your pet’s body condition score is 4 or 5.
The first step to take when you pet is overweight is to keep a food diary.
Write down everything that you feed you pet in a week. Don’t cheat! Everything means everything…. corners of toast, treats, bones, shared biscuits at morning tea, apple cores as well as the volume and type of food fed as their staple breakfast and dinner.
The next thing to do is visit your Vet. Weight gain can occur because of health problems. There are a number of problems that will decrease the metabolic rate or decrease activity/ energy levels of your pet. Conditions include cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal problems (e.g. arthritis, muscle weakness associated with electrolyte or blood sugar problems), neurological problems, hormone imbalances (e.g. hypothyroidism, hyperadrenocorticism). Weight gain can also be associated with enlarged organs e.g. big liver or tumours or fluid retention. This is where the blood tests can help to ensure no underlying internal disease process is occurring.
You should also bring your food diary to the Vet so that a nutritional plan can be produced that ensures adequate calories and a complete and balanced diet.
Exercise. Once the vet has checked your pet to ensure that there are no health problems, a good exercise regime can be instituted. Gentle walks right through to regular running circuits can be achieved with training and gradual increase in the length and intensity of exercise. If energy use is more than calories eaten, weight loss will occur. If, however, like most busy working families, your pet is receiving the most exercise that your time affords, then by reducing the food intake, weight loss WILL occur. Even the most obese dogs will loose weight quickly if calories are reduced and exercise is increased.
Education: When your pet looks at you with those big sad eyes, or dribbles on your foot while you are eating, it doesn’t mean they are starving. It means they WANT some of your food but it doesn’t mean they NEED some of your food. Don’t feel guilty!!
Your pet’s weight loss will help to prolong their lives and make them healthier. There is nothing to be guilty for!!
- use low calorie food such as Hills r/d or Royal Canin or Eukanuba obesity management foods.
- Place the daily allowance of dinner in a screw top jar – if treats are part of your daily routine with your pet, use the biscuits in this jar for treating. At dinner time, any left overs, (and no more) is given for dinner. This method allows treats to be given without increasing the daily food allowance.
- In the early few days of a diet, there may even be some weight gain or excessive begging and hunger. Don’t be discouraged. This occurs because the body is adjusting to the new level of metabolism. Give it a week and these levels will adjust.
As summer approaches and we all struggle to get into shape, don’t forget to include you pet in the exercise regime. Good luck and get sexy for summer!!