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It has been estimated that nearly half of U.S. dogs and cats are overweight or obese. Pet obesity can be caused by genetics, high-fat diets, overeating, lack of exercise and health problems such as hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone levels).

While gaining 1 or 2 pounds may not make a lot of difference to your body, for a cat or a dog with a comparatively smaller body, a few pounds can add a lot of stress to bones and organs. If left untreated, dogs and cats may experience serious health issues secondary to obesity. Excess pounds can even shorten your pet's life span.

Common health problems associated with obesity include:

Common health problems associated with obesity include:

  • Lameness, Arthritis and other Joint Disorders
  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Heart Disease
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Exercise Intolerance and Overheating
  • Increased Anesthetic and Surgical Risks
  • Skin Problems
  • Reduced Life Span

A groundbreaking 14 year study by Purina researchers showed that dogs fed to an ideal body condition throughout their lives had a median life span of 1.8 years longer - and were considerable healthier - than their littermates.

The lean-fed dogs:

  • Stayed healthier longer, with delayed treatment for chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis, which was treated later by a median of 3.0 years
  • Had healthier blood sugar levels, blood pressures, and heart rate
  • Observed by researchers to have fewer visible signs normally associated with aging, such as graying muzzles and reduced activity at a later age.

Purina Body Condition Score Chart

Weight Reduction Programs

You can help your pet return to the proper weight for a healthy, more comfortable life. For success, your pet's weight reduction program should include:

1. A specific veterinary weight reduction diet such as Purina OM or Hill's R/D for dogs or M/D for cats, which have been specifically formulated for healthy weight loss.

2. Eliminate free feeding. Instead of leaving food out all the time, feed your pet at designated times throughout the day. Controlling when and how much your pet eats can help him stick to the weight management program. For multiple pet households, make sure to feed each pet separately, so that each pet gets the right amount of their respective foods.

3. Limit treats. No table scraps or high calorie treats should be given. Shower your dog with love and attention instead of treats. Be mindful of the quality and quantity of treats fed each day - calories add up quickly! Healthy treats include low calorie biscuits (cut them in half to cut even more calories!), baby carrots, green beans, and apple slices. Give all treats in moderation.

4. Get moving. Daily exercise is one of the keys to improving your pet's health. Just 20 minutes of walking or playing fetch each day can help keep your dog fit, and is healthy for you too! Encourage cats to chase toys or laser lights in the house to increase their activity level.

5. Frequent veterinary re-checks and weigh-ins ensure your pet is losing the right amount of weight at the proper rate.

1.  Metabolic Disorders
If a metabolic disorder such as hypothyroidism is causing your pet's weight gain, diet foods may not always help. Before initiating any diet, your dog or cat should be examined by a veterinarian to rule out metabolic dysfunction and disease.

2. "Reduced-calorie" foods may not be low in calories
You may have tried giving you dog or cat reduced calorie food. The trouble is, this food may have fewer calories than regular food, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it is low enough in calories to help your pet lose excess weight.

3. Lack of exercise
Without adequate, consistent exercise as part of a weight-loss program, some cats and dogs may fail to lose weight even if they are on a low calorie diet.

A cookie or a piece of cheese may seem like a little treat to you, but it can be like a whole meal for your pet. Too many snacks add up fast. Avoid unhealthy snacks and table scraps, especially if you are trying to help your pet maintain a healthy weight.

The Roslyn-Greenvale Veterinary Group is organizing a pet weight loss challenge to encourage our overweight patients to lose weight and become healthier pets. Any dog or cat is eligible to enroll. The only requirement is a commitment from YOU to increase their exercise and to decrease the total calories consumed by your pet. The dog or cat with the biggest total percentage of weight lost will be declared our winner!

If your dog or cat is overweight and you would like to get advice on starting a weight-loss program, please call 516-621-4010 to schedule a consultation today.

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