Is my pet too fat??

It’s late summer, the weather is hot and humid, and the Summer Olympics have just wrapped up … so there’s no better time to wade into some troubled waters in this blog. I’m talking about the troubled waters of the obesity epidemic in Canada. I’ll dive right in and say that, according to Stats Canada, we Canadians don’t manage our own diet or exercise programs well. And as veterinarians, we see this reflected in our pet patients – many of whom are overweight and/or out of shape.

So what’s wrong with a few extra pounds or kilos? He looks cute, he enjoys his food, we like to give him treats, we don’t have time for long walks, he likes to sit near us when we’re relaxing, …..

What’s Wrong? Simple… diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease, arthritis, ligament damage such as ruptured cruciate ligaments, etc. All of these disorders are more likely to happen to your beloved pet because he is overweight and out of shape. And the truth of the matter is that we run the same risks ourselves! So when we look in the mirror of our lives and see the results of living the easy life, our first thoughts are …How can we fix it?

I’m not here to tell you what to do for yourself, but to make some suggestions for your pets. In order to lose weight, we need to modify the amount of energy going in and/or the amount of energy going out.

Fat dogLet’s start with the first one, energy in. We can reduce how much we feed our pets – including meals, treats, chew sticks and other treats — but we must do so properly. Restricting food for a pet who doesn’t understand what we are doing can mean that they are constantly mooching or chasing us into the kitchen to get something to eat – which can be annoying to say the least! In some cases, we can get our pets to lose weight by simply decreasing the volume of food we are giving them by 10%, and then checking every 2-3 weeks until the scales begin to tip in the right direction. However, in many cases, this is simply not enough. Maybe it’s because they’re using their sad eyes to convince us to give them little tidbits, perhaps when we are snacking ourselves. In these cases, we will recommend using a specific weight loss diet. Research into weight loss in pets has resulted in the manufacture of prescription diets that actually do work to help either cats or dogs reduce weight under veterinary supervision – finally!

Now, let’s look at energy out. Obviously our pets, like us, need exercise. Exercise burns calories and improves circulation, and can help improve our health overall. Before starting our own exercise programs, gyms and personal trainers always insist that we see our doctor. It’s the same with our pets. After giving your pet a thorough physical examination, we can help you determine where to start. It’s not a good idea to take a couch potato dog and all of a sudden have them running a marathon. If you really work your pet hard to get that weight down, you may be risking injury to your beloved pet. We recommend starting gradually and building up…dogs that are out of shape should start with routine walks around the block once or twice daily. As your pet’s physical fitness improves, you can increase the length of walks, or add in jogging … and it might have the additional benefit of improving your physical fitness too!

So in summary, we need to pay attention to both calorie restriction and increased energy expenditure in order to successfully combat the obesity epidemic in our pets, and help them live happier longer lives. Here at Blue Cross we are so committed to helping our patients get or stay healthy that we now offer free weight assessments for our patients. Our veterinary technical staff will monitor your pet and make recommendations that will help you achieve your goals for your pet. If you are interested in this or have any questions please do not hesitate to call us.

Dr. David Costello