Leaner Pets Live Longer, Healthier Lives

Did you know that by carefully monitoring your pet’s weight, you can help him live a longer and healthier life? Researchers recently found that overweight dogs exhibited more visible signs of aging, such as graying muzzles, impaired gait and reduced activity. Obese pets are more prone to certain health conditions including lameness, diabetes mellitus, and skin problems.

Even more compelling are the results of a 14-year study conducted at the Nestlé Purina Pet Care Center that followed forty-eight Labrador retrievers for their entire lives. This study showed that lean-fed dogs, who received 25 percent less food than their littermates in a control group, lived an average of 15 percent (1.8 years) longer than control dogs. In addition to living longer, the leaner dogs lived healthier lives as well. The age at which 50 percent of the dogs required treatment for a chronic condition such as osteoarthritis was 12 years among lean-fed dogs and 9.9 years for the control group.

The New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association posted an informal poll on www.njvma.org asking pet owners if they thought their pet was overweight. Thirty two percent responded “yes”. These results are consistent with other results, which found that at least 25 percent of dogs and cats in the United States are overweight.

So, how do you get your pet back on a healthy track? Ask your veterinarian if your pet is at his ideal body condition or if he could stand to shed a few pounds. Your veterinarian can show you how to determine your pet’s body condition and set a goal for weight loss if appropriate. Your veterinarian can recommend a diet designed for weight loss and to suggest appropriate amounts to feed. He can provide useful tips for getting your pet to burn more calories and shed those extra pounds. Remember that weight loss takes time and commitment from the entire family. Be patient, the goal is to get your pet on track for a longer healthier life.

If you need a veterinarian, please visit the Find a Veterinarian page for a list of NJVMA veterinarians in your area.