Pounds of Love — How to Shed the Baggage

Pounds of loveI love this poster — it is funny but also sad in a way. I have dealt with “chunky monkey” pets my whole veterinary career. When I first got out of school, I worked in Atlanta and I was very forceful about saying the “F” word — (fat — eek!).

Clients took it as a direct assault on them and became very angry so I started using the term — “chunky monkey” and suddenly it was okay to talk about their pet’s weight. The clients would then say the word fat and I would tell them we don’t use the “F” word.

The holiday season began last week and it has been noted that people gain on average 10 pounds during the holidays; I would be willing to be that pets gain at least 1-2 pounds themselves due to extra holiday cheer from their parents.

Obesity is rampant in our pets today.  A recent study found that weight in dogs is up over 37% since 2007 and cats have an increase of 90% in the same time period.  A dog is considered overweight if they are 5-19% above the ideal weight and considered obese if they are 20% or more above the ideal weight.

Obesity has been connected to arthritis in dogs and linked to diabetes mellitus and heart disease in cats.  It can lead to metabolic, musculoskeletal, and physiologic problems.  Female dogs are at a higher risk for obesity while male cats are more at risk for this problem.  Other factors that contribute to obesity include aging, neutering, inactivity and overfeeding.

The ideal weight for your pet is when:

  1. you can run your hands over the ribs and feel them with a slight pressure
  2. you can see an hourglass shape behind the last rib when looking down on them
  3. you should be able to see the abdomen tuck up

Homemade diets tend to be much higher in calories and “human” food is not digested the same in our pets which leads to an increased caloric intake.  Feeding human food also teaches your pet bad habits of begging and pancreatitis is a very real disease that we see daily in the clinic.

Hill’s Pet Nutrition published an interesting set of comparisons about human food to pet food.  If you feed a 10 pound cat a single potato chip it is equivalent to a person eating ½ of a hamburger.

The best method to combat obesity is to first make sure that you are measuring your pet’s food in a measuring cup and dividing it into at least 2 meals for the day.  You can make snacks a part of your pet’s diet by taking a handful of food and setting it aside for treats.  Increased fiber content can help your pet feel full to keep them from begging.

Increasing your pet’s exercise is also needed for weight loss.  Start out with small, slow walks that increase in distance, speed and time over a few weeks.  Monitor your pet’s weight loss by frequently placing them on the scale.

Your local veterinarian usually does not charge for weighing your pet and will be happy to help you monitor the change.  Just like in people you should get your veterinarian’s approval prior to starting any exercise program.

Weight loss in your pet can decrease the pain associated with osteoarthritis, help with respiration and increase their longevity.   Love your pet and keep the weight off of them.

If you need help reaching your pet’s ideal weight, please come by ARCC — Animal Rehab & Conditioning Center for a treatment plan that will be easy to follow.


At ARCC: “A Healthy Pet is only a bARCC Away!”


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