Adrienne Gwin, DVM
As we reach the middle of the year months after New Year’s resolutions have come and gone and as the reality of summer has set in, now is a key time not to forget about healthy weight management and nutrition.
Bathing suit season helps people stay focused but our fur-covered family members don’t have the same motivating factors. Based on recent studies, nearly 60% of dogs and cats are overweight. Did you know that pets that maintained an ideal body weight have statistically longer lives and less osteoarthritis pain than obese pets? On the other end of the spectrum, underweight or undernourished pets are more likely to get sick and have weaker than those in the ideal weight range. Clearly, finding the balance is key.
Let me start by saying no diet is one size fits all and no one can make these changes for you so you may be signing up for a bit of an adventure.
However, It’s important to do the work to ensure that you are providing your pets the nutrition they need to keep them healthy for as long as possible.
Every pet’s metabolism and medical history is unique. There are plenty of advertising campaigns for the ideal dog or cat food ranging from raw to gluten free to grain free and beyond. This blog will not evaluate those fad trends, but instead will focus on the basics of dog and cat nutrition and weight management with the overall goal being pet health and wellbeing.
Just a few guidelines to start:Just a few guidelines to start:
- Make sure the diet you are feeding your pet has been evaluated and tested to meet quality standards in pet food. You should see the letters AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) on the bag. This organization sets standards for animal nutrition as well as regulations for ingredients. For more information about AAFCO and what they do check out aafco.org.
- Feed for the ideal weight, accurate age, and correct species. The number of calories and nutritional requirements for a puppy compared to an elderly dog are very different. As are the differences for a dogs and cats. Your veterinarian can help you set realistic goals for weight goals, whether loss or gain, and can make recommendations for diets that have worked well for other animals in similar health conditions. Keep in mind that the feeding directions on the bag are determined based on an “average” animal of “average” age with “average” exercise and energy, so your dog’s needs may differ.
- Don’t forget about those treats. Treats have calories too, so be sure to include those in the daily caloric count.
- Moderate exercise is important for muscle strength. Just like us, a combination of diet and exercise is most effective in achieving ideal weight goals.
- Keep track of your progress! It is hard to see gradual change when looking face to face with your dog or cat everyday. Remember how it seemed like your pet wasn’t really getting bigger one day to the next but was suddenly full size. Keep a record so you and your veterinarian can see the progress, so you can change course if needed. This also helps hold you accountable for the changes to follow.
Ready to take action? Call to schedule a consultation with our skilled veterinarians today. They may recommend that you start with some baseline lab work to ensure there is not a medical reason for weight gain or loss. and can also help evaluate your current diet and exercise regime.
There is nothing more frustrating an often treatable disease preventing your pet from reaching it’s ideal weight. Remember that you are the one who fills the bowl and chooses what goes in it. Let’s make good choices together.
For more in depth medical guidelines, I recommend you check out this site from the American Animal Hospital Association: www.aaha.org/public_documents/professional/guidelines/weightmgmt_booklet.pdf