Obesity is the most significant pet disease globally! With studies proving pets that maintain a healthy weight will enjoy a longer life, weight maintenance is an important part of regular preventive care.
The risks of obesity
Just like people, some pets maintain a healthy weight more easily than others. There are many factors including genetics and breed expectations that contribute to this. However, those factors aren’t reasons to ignore your pets’ added pounds. Extra weight can result in a range of medical conditions such as chronic joint pain, heart disease, and chronic skin infections, none of which a pet deserves to endure.
See our previous blog on obesity to determine if your pet is a healthy weight.
If your pet has become overweight or obese, there is no quick or easy fix. While our veterinary team will consider medical reasons for weight gain (such as hypothyroidism), we always focus on what our pet owners can control: exercise and of course, nutrition. Veterinary nutrition to the rescue!
How does nutrition come into play?
There are two parts to weight management: weight loss and weight maintenance. When it comes to weight loss, calories taken into the body need to be less than calories used up by the body. But limiting a pet’s regular food intake isn’t the solution because this limits their protein and micronutrient intake and could result in your pet becoming very hungry or very sick. This is where prescription weight loss diets come into play.
Prescription weight loss diets are formulated with fewer calories and more quality protein and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). They are recognized as the most effective way to support a pet’s weight loss. Diets like Royal Canin Satiety have been created to reduce hunger by increasing protein and fiber. Others, like Hill’s Metabolic, are designed to stimulate your pet’s metabolism to burn calories faster.
Once your pet has reached their ideal weight, a weight maintenance diet is recommended. Our expert nutrition team will provide dietary recommendations based on your pet’s specific needs. And don’t worry that your pet won’t like them—all veterinary diets have high palatability (most pets like them) and a palatability guarantee. We can also explore other feeding solutions like puzzle toys that might slow down your pet’s feeding habits and help with weight maintenance.
Setting realistic goals
As a pet owner, helping a pet lose weight takes dedicated time and effort, but the benefits are worth it. Pets should lose no more than one to two percent of their body weight weekly or they can become sick. Depending on how overweight your pet is, achieving a healthy body weight can take anywhere from four months to over a year. However, you’ll notice improvements along the way. In fact, pet that lose as little as 6-8% of their body weight have shown improved mobility, decreased joint pain (i.e., they appear to need less anti-inflammatory medication), improved lung function, and better insulin sensitivity (decreased need for insulin in diabetics). Your pet will be able to do more of the things he/she used to enjoy and have a better quality of life.
Staying on track
Without regular support and monitoring, it’s easy for pets (and pet owners!) to fall back into old feeding habits. Our nutrition team can help prevent that. We’ll recommend a schedule for reassessing your pet’s weight and body condition. This will help us identify plateaus in your pet’s weight loss and adjust your pet’s weight loss plan to keep them on track.
Where does exercise come into this?
Nutrition and exercise go hand in hand. Exercise not only burns calories but also increases muscle mass, which contributes to a higher metabolism, better mobility, and better quality of life. Our team will recommend types of exercise, how much, and how often is best for your pet, and make sure that our exercise and nutrition recommendations are working together. Exercise does not make up for inappropriate nutrition.
So…no more treats?
Being on a diet doesn’t mean no treats! Treats should be no more than 10% of your pet’s calorie intake or they will cause nutrient imbalance in your pet’s diet. We can recommend treats that are low in calorie but still rewarding for your pet. And remember, pets love our attention almost as much as food, so what we see as begging for a treat is often an ask for attention. Giving them a cuddle or engaging in a quick game (more exercise!) is often more rewarding for them than a treat that’ forgotten five seconds after being swallowed.