Posted on July 15, 2012
When I met Sally, a six-year-old yellow Labrador, she tipped the scales at 105 pounds (a normal average adult Lab weighs 60 to 70 pounds). Her lifelong guardian, an 85-year-old gentleman, loved his dog dearly but could no longer care for her. The family friend who adopted Sally asked me to devise a weight loss program- no easy task given that, because of her size, Sally was unable to walk more than a few steps at a time. In addition to providing limited portions of a prescription weight loss diet, Sally’s usual dog biscuit treats were replaced with “attention treats” consisting of belly rubs and playtime with a variety of toys. The most important element of Sally’s weight loss program was time spent on an underwater treadmill that provided a means for nonweight bearing exercise. Sally worked her way up to 10 minutes on the treadmill three times weekly and, over the course of three months, she slimmed down to a svelte 67 pounds! Sally was transformed from a Labrador lounger back into a healthy Labrador retriever!
Unfortunately, Sally has plenty of company. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention estimates that over 45% of dogs and 58% of cats in the United States are estimated to be overweight or obese predisposing them to a vast array of medical issues such as arthritis, diabetes, and cancer.
When you pet your dog or cat today, take an extra minute to rub your hands along her sides. Can you readily feel her ribs? If not, your best little buddy is likely to be overweight, an almost sure forecast for trouble ahead. Talk with your veterinarian to help formulate a weight loss plan that is safe and makes sense for everyone involved.
Tips for Weight Management
Here are some pointers- many of which helped Sally go from flab to fab- to keep in mind.
Ignore the feeding instructions on pet food labels. Feeding recommendations on the pet food label invariably result in overweight animals! Your veterinarian can counsel you on how much to feed based on your pet’s age, breed, and lifestyle.
Regular weigh-ins. Because you see your four-legged family members each and every day, weight gain or loss may go unnoticed. Weigh them on a regular basis (ideally, on the same scale). Most veterinarians are more than happy to their patients “drop in” for a “weigh in” at no charge. And what a lovely, stress-free visit to the veterinary hospital for your pet.
Form a dog-walking club. This will provide health benefits at both ends of the leash.
Trade in those fattening snacks for low calorie “attention treats”. The type of treat offered is far less important than are the acts of giving and receiving.
Kitty entertainment. Enrich your cat’s environment with toys, climbing structures, and your attention to entice calorie-burning activities.
Practice due diligence. While any dog can become overweight, certain breeds (Labrador Retriever, Pug, Dachshund, Basset Hound, Golden Retriever, Beagle, to name a few) are particularly predisposed. If you fancy such a breed, prepare to be a lifelong calorie counter.
Enlist professional help. Make use of a doggie day camp or professional dog walker if you are unable to get your pup out for regular exercise. A prescription weight loss diet along with time spent on an underwater treadmill helped Sally slim down to an ideal body weight in three months. Yes, such professional help may be pricey, but it will likely save you on health care treatments and heartache in the long run.
What has worked well in your hands for maintaining health body weights for your pets?
Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
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Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.