New Year, Less Weight for you and your Pets
Peter H. Eeg DVM
Poolesville Veterinary Clinic
Poolesville, Md. 20837
Well welcome to 2019. Did you make New Years resolutions? Did you make some for your furry friends (I don’t mean Uncle Fred). Well if you did you are about 100% likely to fail. Sorry, but that is the hard truth about the New Years resolutions. They are done under stress, duress, or an alcohol induced sense of immortality. The number one Resolution is always to lose some weight. We are in general an over weight country and our pets are a prime example. 90% of the domestic animals in the USA are at least 10% over weight or more. We love to love our pets by giving them treats, all kinds of treats and even our own treats. The average person overfeeds their pet’s regular food by 10-20%. This is usually not the fault of the pet parents, it is the fact that dog and cat food companies typically recommend 10 to 20% feeding rates about needed amounts. We create fat puppies and kittens and this translates into overweight adult pets.
So, what can we do with our New Years Resolutions for ourselves and our furry friends that has a chance of working? It is very simple. Small starts and stay within attainable goals for yourselves and your pets. There are now many apps that allow you to set schedules for yourself and your pets with respect to feeding, treats and activity. There are fit bits and bark/meow bits that people and pets can wear to keep track of how active they are and how many calories they burn. For diet just reduce a daily intake of foods by your pet by 10%. Smaller meals three times a day can help with weight loss than on big meal a day. Take your pet to your veterinarian and get them weighed. You can also get a quick check up to be sure there are no hidden issues that may be a problem for your pet and you. Plan on a monthly weigh in at your veterinary clinic. Like weight watchers, showing up in person and sharing your pet’s weight can be very reinforcing.
When it comes to activity, studies have shown that by trying to make your pets more active, you actually become more active. A great rule of thumb is to keep your exercise events short and to the point. Walk your pet for 5-10 minutes to start. Consider just walking around the house or back yard. Trips down the street or into the woods can come later. Stay at the same level for 3-4 weeks. Trying to increase your activity time too fast is a receipt for failure for you and your pet. Remember that 80% of dogs over the age of 8 have some level of osteoarthritis. So, if you start to exercise your dogs or cats and they start to seem lame or uncomfortable, a trip to your veterinarian to determine if arthritis is an issue is a good idea. There are great medications that will allow you and your pet to continue exercising comfortably. Never start exercising at a run, always at a walk. Running can come much later in the program or not at all. Many studies show that a brisk walking pace is actually better for you than a run.
Any effort you make for yourself and your pet is better than no effort. Average a pound weight loss a month is a good target for an overweight pet. Always remember, unlike people, pets do not recognize quantity over quality. So, a tiny bit of something tasty is better than a bag of junk food.