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A Healthy New Year for Your Pet

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Garden State Veterinary Specialists

The start of a New Year is a time when we reflect on the changes we want to make in our lives; many of us make resolutions consisting of a new workout regime or diet. However, we don’t usually include our pet in those resolutions.

As discussed in a recent article published in Veterinary Practice News, veterinarians are advocating to have obesity in animals recognized as a disease. Research has found that more than half of the cats and dogs in the US are overweight or obese.

Body condition scoring
So how do you know where your pet lies? Every body type is different; there is no numerical ideal. Veterinarians are trained to give a body condition score; the numbering system is from 1 (underfed) to 9 (overfed). Scoring an animal involves feeling their ribs and viewing them from above. An ideal score means that the ribs are easily felt with a small amount of fat covering them and that a waist can be noted when viewed from above. Underfed animals have ribs that are more prominent and exhibit a loss of fat/muscle mass.

Weight Loss – Diet
Once you’ve determined where your pet places on the scale, weight loss may be in order. The best items to cut from their diet are treats. If your pet does not eat treats or you’ve already cut them out, then decreasing their total food intake is in order. Your veterinarian can calculate the number of calories your pet needs and you can figure out how many calories are in a food serving by reading package labels.

Weight Loss – Exercise
Which exercise to choose is dependent on what you and your pet enjoy the most, whether it’s playing, walking, running, or swimming. Cats can be more difficult, but using laser pointers or anything that rolls can help increase their activity level.

No Progress despite Best Efforts
Sometimes there are underlying medical issues involved in weight gain. Metabolic changes such as hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease can cause weight gain. If, despite having an appropriate diet and exercise regime, your pet is not losing weight, a wellness check with your veterinarian is recommended.

Benefits of Weight Loss
An appropriate weight is good for a pet’s bones and joints, helping to prevent hip, knee, and spinal problems. Some metabolic problems such as diabetes can be improved with weight loss. Overweight animals can also have difficulty with breathing. This is especially true for breeds such as Pugs, Bull Dogs, and Boston Terriers. In fact, studies have shown that animals that are mildly underweight to ideal weight live longer than overweight animals. Not only will your pet benefit from a healthy lifestyle, but you can also reap the benefits by integrating your favorite companion into your daily exercise routine.


This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for the professional advice of your veterinarian.

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