Weight loss plan for pet obesity: raising awareness for healthier pets and preventative veterinary care
By Lidja Gillmeister, DVM
These days, most people are aware that obesity takes a severe toll on human health. But according to a recent report from Tufts University, many individuals fail to extend this awareness to their pets. The truth is that pet obesity is a serious health threat that carries many of the same risk factors as human obesity. Overweight pets are more likely to develop diabetes, heart problems, joint problems and breathing issues, as well as reduced life expectancy. Therefore, in order to ensure a long and happy life for your pet, it is important to keep track of your animal’s weight, prevent excessive weight gain, and visit a local veterinary hospital for preventative health care and weight-loss management advice.
Lisa Freeman, a professor of clinical sciences at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, tells The Tufts Daily that pet obesity is more common and harmful – but also more curable – than people tend to realize. Obesity is, as she puts it, a health risk that veterinary professionals can “attack…from all sides.” Indeed, there are plenty of steps that pet owners can take at home and with help from a local veterinarian to help their pets lose weight and improve their health.
If you suspect that your pet is overweight, the first step towards effective treatment is to bring him in for a veterinary evaluation and accurate weight check. From there, your veterinarian will determine a safe, steady weight-loss plan. At La Jolla Veterinary Hospital, we tailor our weight-loss strategies to suit your pet by assessing both body weight and also the body condition score (BCS), a method through which we can take the animal’s frame into consideration. We will then set an initial weight loss goal – for example, a 10% loss of body weight over a period of two or three months. Under this sample plan, pet owners would be instructed to limit treats and snacks, and to switch their pets to a low-calorie density diet. Additionally, we would suggest a 10% reduction in portion sizes.
Exercise is also a key component for healthy weight loss. However, it is very important for pets to undergo a physical exam before making significant changes to their daily activity. Under a veterinarian’s approval, most pet owners will be encouraged to give their animals 30 minutes of exercise daily. Initially, exercise modification may be necessary to decrease high-impact activities and protect against injury. A gradual increase in current activity level, implemented in ten-minute increments, is the best way to ease into a more active routine. We will follow up with you after one week on this program to check on your pet’s progress. If all is going well, we will plan a second progress evaluation after six weeks, three months, six months and one year to monitor body condition and weight, as well as to address any problems and make necessary adjustments. We also offer courtesy weight checks, and welcome you to stop by with your pet as desired to track his progress.
Of all the health risks that impact quality of life for our pets, obesity is one of the easiest to prevent. Pet owners can avoid the need for obesity treatments simply by keeping their pets active and healthy with a low-calorie, fresh food diet, daily walks and playtime. For more information about preventative pet health services, pet obesity treatment and other forms of veterinary care, visit us at La Jolla Veterinary Hospital or go online today: www.lajollavet.com.
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