Overweight Pet? The Sneaky Reasons Your Pet Isn’t Losing Weight

For pets and people alike, it’s easier to keep the weight off than to lose it. An overweight pet with even a few extra pounds can experience disastrous consequences to their long term health and wellness. However, weight-loss diets can be very difficult to maintain – especially once behavioral patterns are established to overeat, sneak treats, and munch on snacks throughout the day.  

The Heart of the Matter

The perils of pet obesity are becoming more commonly understood. Despite warnings of developing associated diseases (such as osetoarthritis, diabetes, cancer) and early mortality, a shockingly high number of pets are considered overweight or obese, especially seniors.

The Breakdown

Weight gain occurs when an individual consumes too many calories with insufficient opportunities to burn them off. Many pets live fairly sedentary lives and eat energy-dense food. Lots of naps combined with even a normal amount of food plus regular treats can be so much more damaging than you think.

An overweight pet simply needs less food and more exercise, right? It’s not always as easy as that.

The Measuring Cup

Overfeeding is the most obvious reason for added weight, but certain medical conditions like Cushing’s syndrome or hypothyroidism can affect a pet’s metabolism. Before you make changes to  your pet’s diet, we recommend ruling out what could be going on beneath the surface. 

Additionally, a wellness exam is helpful in discerning whether your pet is up for rigorous exercise from now on.

Trying to Lose Weight

There could be many other explanations behind why an overweight pet isn’t losing weight, or isn’t losing it fast enough. 

The ideal place to start is with an understanding of the Body Condition Score (BCS). Taking into account your pet’s species, breed, age and lifestyle we can determine their weight and exercise plan, all in order for them to achieve the optimal score on the BCS. 

A Greater Challenge

Once you know how much your pet should ideally weigh, you can determine their daily intake of food, snacks, treats, supplements, and people food. Take a long look at the ingredients lists on food labels, and call us with any questions

An overweight pet might benefit from shaving about 25-40% of their previous calorie count, but because they depend on critical vitamins and nutrients, cutting calories from their meals isn’t necessarily a healthy alternative. Instead, reduce the amount of extra calories they receive from snacks and treats. 

The Rx Solution

Prescription diets can help to ensure an overweight pet gets all the nutrition they need, without extra calories. We are happy to discuss viable options for your pet’s weight and lifestyle. 

While dieting, we recommend weighing your pet every 2-4 weeks and noting any changes on the BCS. It’s reasonable to aim for losing 1-2% of body weight every week. That being said, it can take over a month for pet owners to see any changes. Please let us know if no changes to weight have occurred after 4-6 weeks. 

Still Struggling

While restricting unnecessary calories is the foundation for weight loss, the process can be supported by increased exercise. Preserving muscle mass and increasing metabolism are just two benefits of exercising to lose weight.

Other options may involve:

  • Food puzzles
  • Slow feeders
  • Fresh veggies and fruits (to help your pet feel full during meals)
  • Ensuring that all family or household members are adhering to the dietary restrictions (and always use the same exact measuring cup!)
  • Camp Canine can keep your pup distracted from a rumbling tummy and will engage them in calorie-burning activities 

Dedication to an Overweight Pet

A few extra pounds put on over the course of many months can really sneak up on pet owners. Surely, preventing extra weight gain is the best option, but with daily discipline and dedication, an overweight pet can definitely achieve their optimal weight.

As always, if we can assist you with questions, please let us know at Animal Family Veterinary Care Center.

Strategies for Pet Weight Loss

 

Once you have determined that your pet is overweight what is the next step? First you need to determine what weight your pet should be. We can help with that at the clinic. There is an actual measuring system that will provide an accurate result.

  • Decrease caloric intake
    • For real weight loss to occur, your pet must eat at least 30% fewer calories than what it would take to maintain their ideal weight not their current weight.
    • Keep your pet out of the kitchen and away from the dining table.  This will decrease begging and you will be less likely to cave in to big, sad eyes.
    • If your household has more than one pet be sure to feed them separately.
    • Meal feed.  Don’t leave food down all the time.  There is no way to keep track of intake
    • If your pet seems hungry in between meals, divide the same amount into smaller portions and feed more frequent smaller meals.  Just remember begging is simply a learned response to getting, not requiring food.
  • Feed a diet that is formulated for weight loss.  Diets have become much more advanced and feeding the right diet can be a huge help. Science Diet recently added Metabolic Diet to their line of weight loss foods.  Our clients who have tried it have been pretty happy with the results so far.
  • Increase Activity
    • Take your dog for a walk.  It’s good for both of you!  Don’t just stay on the street. Try varying the surfaces.  Use sand, water or even snow, in the winter, for resistance.  Add some obstacles like logs, hills or ditches.
    • Try introducing fetch, fly ball or agility to your routine.  It’s fun, great exercise and a wonderful new way to bond with your dog. 
    • If you have access to water, try swimming.  However, please be careful with the strong current in the local rivers.  Stick to areas that are safe for both of you.
    • Don’t forget Day Camp.  This provides plenty of activity for your pet while you are at work.  It’s the best cure for working owner’s couch potatoes we have come up with in a long time.
  • What about cats? 
    • Cats are problematic.  Most are indoors and many also very thrifty when it comes to calories. 
    • Pay attention to what you feed.  Yes, cats can be meal fed and they generally don’t require near as much food as you think. Again we have had very good results with Hill’s Metabolic Diet.
    • Cats do better with canned food.  It is generally higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates than most dry kibble.
    • But…stay away from canned foods with gravy. They are almost always higher in calories.
    • Use a food specifically formulated for weight loss in cats.
    • Never, ever starve your cat to induce weight loss.  They are particularly susceptible to fatty liver disease and not eating for more than 24 hours or too rapid of weight loss can cause this syndrome in cats. 1% or 0.2 to 0.4 pounds per week is plenty for a 20 pound cat.
    • Weight loss and cats is tough and cats are way harder to induce into activity.  It may be that the best exercise for a cat is simply adding another cat.
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