Obesity is a common problem that we see and feel owner should be more concerned about helping their pet stay trim. If you can not feel your animal's ribs or discern a defined waist, your animal is overweight.
Major causes of obesity are decreased activity and too many calories from feeding palatable, high-calorie diets, often free choice as well as table scraps and treats. Other factors include metabolic problems, neutering which lowers calorie requirements, and breed predisposition i.e. Labradors and Retrievers. Before starting a weight reduction program, a good history, physical exam, blood test, thyroid test and urinalysis are initial diagnostics recommended to rule out other causes of obesity.
Being obese can lead to serious health problems such as aggravation of joint or disc disease, breathing difficulty, exercise intolerance, diabetes, pancreatitis, and increased surgical and anesthetic risk. A recent study showed that lean animals had their life extended by two years, did not develop chronic disease until 12 years of age, and had less visible signs of aging.
Treatment of obesity involves modification of diet, exercise and behavior of the owners. All family members must be convinced of the pet's obesity problem and committed to correct it.
A target weight is set for the animal and then the pet should be weighed weekly. The goal is 1-2% weight loss per week. If weight loss has not occurred by 1 month after the start of a weight reduction program, the calorie intake should be reduced an additional 40%. Once the target weight is obtained, that animal's caloric intake should be adjusted to maintain an optimal weight with low calorie diets.
Weight Loss Tips
Should you use a prescription weight loss diet? EFVH recommends using commercial prescription weight loss diets to help your pet lose weight. They are formulated to provide complete, balanced nutrition to keep your pet satisfied while losing weight. Pets that need to lose more than 10% of their body weight will be more successful with a prescription diet. There is a 100% money back guarantee and a $15 mail-in rebate available on prescription diets. Hill's R/D is a complete food that is low in calories, but high in fiber to ensure your pet feels satisfied. It is rich in carnitine to help burn fat and increase muscle during weight loss, and antioxidants to maintain a strong immune system. Hill's M/D is a high-protein, low-carbohydrate food formulated especially for cats to alter a cat's metabolism for effective weight loss. Calorie-restricted ("lite", "low fat", "maintenance") non-prescription diets can be used for pets that need to lose only 5-10% of their body weight and do not require severe caloric restriction to achieve their target weight.
Changing the diet: When you are introducing a new diet to your pet, mix increasing amounts of the pet's new food with decreasing amounts of the old food over a 7-day period. **Notify EFVH if your cat is consuming less than 80% of the recommended feeding amounts. Fasting can cause a fatty liver in the cat. To enhance palatability of the diet food, try warming the food, adding oregano, garlic powder or fatty acid supplement over the food. Your pet may prefer canned food. Canned food can be more successful as a weight loss diet - it is less calorie dense, has more water, is higher in protein, and promotes more satiety. Encourage increased water intake while dieting.
Frequency of feeding: Feed your pet 2-3 times a day at even intervals to help satisfy your pet and allow calories to be burned more quickly. Measure food at each meal using a 1 cup measuring cup. If multiple family members feed the pet, measure the daily amount out in a container in the morning to discourage double dipping! Interesting overfeeding fact: Just 10 extra kibbles of dry cat food/day can result in 1# of weight gain in a year.
Recommended Treats: Cut out the pet "junk" treats and "people" food! Provide low calorie treats (Hill's Light Treats, Lean Treats, Liver Biscotti, CocoTherapy Coconut Chips), mixed (green, yellow and red) vegetables - raw or cooked, fruit (not grapes or raisins!), plain rice cakes, original flavor Cheerios, air-popped popcorn or a small portion of kibble from your pet's daily diet amount. Treats should not exceed more than 10% of total daily intake because excess treats can unbalance the main diet.
Prevent the obese pet from eating other pets' food: Feed pets in separate rooms or in carriers. Do not use self feeders. Feed normal weight cats in elevated locations or inside a creep feeder. The creep feeder is large enough for a thin cat to enter and exit but too small to admit an obese cat. All leftover pet food should be picked up after the meal. Don't allow your pet to wander over to a neighbor pet's food bowl!
To prevent begging: Feed a high fiber diet. Pet your pet or play with it when it begs for food. Feed smaller meals more frequently. Offer fresh water instead of food. Offer a few kibbles out of your pet's daily amount of food.
Remember to increase exercise: Cats: Play "hunt for the food"—moving the food bowl around or divide your cat's meal into several small dishes and hide them around the house. Move the food bowl far away from where your cat likes to stay the most. Play with your cat for 5-10 minutes 2-3 times a day using squeaky toys, feather toys, flashlights, laser pointer, paper bags or balls. Dogs: 2-4 mile walks, walk/runs or runs; playtime, fetching, or making your pet work for its food. Just exercising your dog 30-60 minutes a day can make a big difference!
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