Hello, Dr Schroeder here for this month’s blog post. One of the most common requests I get from pet owners is how to make their pets live forever. While forever is obviously an impossible goal, there are things that we can do that have been shown to result in a longer and healthier life! Keeping pets at an ideal body weight is number one. Purina did a study in 2002 that showed that pets fed an appropriate ration and kept at an ideal body weight lived an average of almost 2 years longer than their overweight counterparts. That being said, unfortunately over half of the patients we see on a daily basis are overweight.
Just like for people, the cornerstones of weight loss are decreasing calorie intake and increasing exercise. When starting an overweight pet on a diet, I begin by decreasing their food ration by 20%. It is important to actually measure the food. You can also add some canned pumpkin or green beans to their meals to make them feel more full and satisfied. Another place to cut calories is by changing to lower calorie treats. Some examples of low calorie treats would be carrots, green beans, blueberries, or plain popcorn. If your pet doesn’t like those options you can take some of their daily food allotment and give it out as treats during the day. That makes it a little easier to keep track of their calories, and make sure they are not overeating. Things to avoid include onions, grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, and garlic as they are toxic to dogs. You are always welcome to bring your pet by and use our scale to track their weight loss progress. Monthly weigh-ins allows time to see your progress – remember a few lbs for a small dog is much more significant than a large dog! Look at the percent of weight loss, not just the number! If you do those things and they are still not losing weight after a few months, we may consider checking lab work to check for any metabolic issues, or change to a prescription diet food.
I know it is hard to put your pet on a diet because they really love getting treats and meal time, and it is part of how we show them we love them. However, once they lose some weight they generally have more energy and are able to go for longer walks, be more interactive with the family, and are healthier overall. Getting outside can be a family activity and maybe incentive to get all of us to exercise a little bit more. So, as it is hard to deny them extra snacks they will thank you for it in the long run, and be able to go for longer runs.