If our pets are like many of us, they may have over-indulged in meals and treats over the holidays. Unfortunately, overweight or obese pets are becoming increasingly common and it’s a battle we have to tackle together. Today, it is estimated that 59% of cats and 54% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese. But what can you do?

Identifying Overweight and Obese Pets
As we live with our pets every day, it’s often hard for us to see the gradual change in their waistlines. The best way to assess your pet’s weight is to have them weighed in our office and then discuss the results your veterinarian. Based upon the breed guidelines, age and health considerations, the doctors at Kirkwood Animal Hospital can tell you if your pet would benefit from more activity, less or different food — or both.

Overweight Pets

A sign that you might want to have your pet’s weight assessed includes the inability to easily feel your pet’s ribs when rubbing their side — without pressing.

Overweight pets can suffer from diabetes and a variety of joint, cardiac and respiratory issues, hypertension, kidney disease, cancer, heat intolerance — many of which are avoidable yet potentially life threatening.

Selecting Nutritious Pet Foods
Maintaining a pet’s proper weight is a balance between calories consumed and calories expended. But, not all calories are created equal and this is where proper nutrition is essential.

When purchasing pet food, search for a product that offers a balanced diet. A balanced diet is one that provides a complete range of daily nutrients. A simple review of the label will share how each brand or product stacks up. You don’t want to purchase a pet food that contains excessive calories, preservatives, fat or fillers — such as grains or cornmeal. And you should also consider an "age-appropriate" food that is matched to your pet’s current lifecycle nutritional needs. Recall, growing pets can consume more calories than seniors, and seniors can benefit from ingredients that help with aging digestion, eyes and joints.

A balanced food can be dry or wet — and the quality food for your pet is not necessarily the most expensive. Again, the labels will help guide your choice. If you have questions about selecting a pet food, please contact us.

Just remember, what goes in does come out. Higher quality food tends to produce slightly less waste as the body absorbs more. This is why pets that eat food with many fillers tend to poop in larger quantities.

Controlling Treats
Of course, we all love our pets. And often the best way to show them our affection is to share our meals or provide them with treats. But just as some of the food we eat ourselves is not great for us, it’s often worse for your pet. Food for humans tends to contain excessive levels of salt, fat, artificial flavors and preservatives. These aspects make "our" food even less beneficial for your pet.

Pet Treats

While treats and snacks are part of what makes like enjoyable (and pet training possible), their consumption needs to be curtailed. Ideally snacks and treats should not represent more than 20% of a pet’s daily caloric intake. So, examine the labels of your pet’s snacks and share accordingly. Also search for flavorful, low calories pet treats — including fruits and vegetables. They do exist, and your pet will love them just the same.

Engaging in Exercise
Pets need daily exercise. And depending upon the type or breed of pet, some require substantially more than others. So, how do you exercise your pet after a long day at the office? Often a game of hide-and-seek, ball, frisbee or a walk or run to the park will help keep the metabolism going. Even a simple walk that involve periods of an elevated pace to a run or brisk walk can substantially help your pet burn calories and feel re-energized. Ideally, 20 to 30 minutes a day of aerobic exercise will keep your pet fit and healthy.


Exercising Pets

Recall, daily activity (vs. every weekend) is essential. It will not only help keep your pet physically and mentally sharp, it can help pet owners as well!

Matching Calories Consumed and Calories Burned
As pets age, their metabolism naturally slows. So, it’s vital that the number and meal portion be matched with your pet’s activity. Pets under two years often eat two meals per day, but this level of caloric intake is generally not required once they have grown to full size.

If you’re unsure how many nutritious calories your pet requires, please ask us. As we know your pet’s age, we’ll likely respond with few questions of our own — including the frequency and intensity of their "play time" or physical activity. Based upon your answers, we can recommend the number of daily meals and the associated portion size — including any suggestions for pet food brands and activity levels.

Matching calories consumed with calories burned is the best way to gradually decrease you pet’s weight — or to help maintain it.

It’s Up to You
Controlling your pet’s weight is up to you. A pet with the proper weight will be happier, live longer, and experience fewer health concerns. Since you control what pet food is purchased, how often it’s given and the frequency/intensity of their exercise, your pet’s health depends on you. We can help you make great decisions and ensure your pet wins the lifelong battle against being overweight or obese.