With a new year upon us comes the age old tradition of resolutions. Vowing to diet and exercise is the most common pledge people make. Did you also know that many pets need you to make weight loss and exercise a priority for them, too?
The buddy system is a great motivator. If you are one of the many people who are going to follow through with a responsible diet and exercise program, consider including your faithful pet.
Learn to think in percentages: 3 extra pounds on a cat can be 30% extra weight. Eight extra pounds on a dog that should weigh 40 pounds is 20% too much!
Do you think your cushy tabby cat is just right? Most cats only need to weigh 8 to 10 pounds. Think your dog’s wide silhouette is just due to his fluffy hair? You should be able to feel your dog’s ribs with slight fingertip pressure, and your dog’s shape when viewed from the top should not remind you of your favorite ottoman.
Just as you should ask your physician about your weight loss program, the same is true for your pet. Always check with your other family doctor – your veterinarian – first. He or she can tell you how much weight your pet needs to lose. It is also very important to make sure that your pet does not have any other diseases which can be caused by the obesity, and which also must be managed. A complete physical examination is needed, and sometimes blood tests are indicated.
Extra weight places extra demands on all of the body’s organs. Some of the serious complications of obesity found in our pets are damage to joints, difficulty breathing, increased stress on heart function, lack of stamina, diabetes and an overall decrease in the quality and length of life. Obesity can also be a sign of thyroid and other hormonal imbalances.
Your veterinarian will recommend a nutrition plan that is tailored to your pet’s needs, and will advise you on the level of exercise your pet can tolerate. You can get some helpful hints on healthy treats for your pet and how to deal with begging.
For pets, exercise can be fun time spent with you. Cats will often run around after a toy on a string. Even in chilly weather, your dog can benefit from an abbreviated walk or some time spent playing outside with you.
Consult your veterinarian soon about a diet and exercise program that’s right for your pet. Make sure you and your pet have many healthy, active years ahead of you. If you need a veterinarian, please visit the Find a Veterinarian page for a list of NJVMA veterinarians in your area.