Each year a growing number of dogs and cats become overweight or obese which can lead to significant, life-threatening health issues. For a variety of reasons, it can be difficult for health care teams to talk with their clients about making proper pet weight loss and weight management lifestyle changes.
A weight management study concluded that compared with cats of optimal weight, obese cats are more than twice as likely to develop skin conditions, four times as likely to develop diabetes mellitus and five times as likely to develop lameness requiring veterinary treatment. Likewise, another study showed that dogs fed to maintain an ideal weight can live longer, healthier lives.
Pets that are overweight and have mobility issues such as arthritis need careful assessment and monitoring from your veterinary team. In many cases pets will have improved mobility with weight loss alone. However extra help such as medications and special mobility diets may be needed to get pets moving more comfortably. You may also need to consider moving your pet’s bed and litter box to easily reached locations and providing ramps to allow them to negotiate steps or for dogs to get into and out of cars.
If your pet is overweight, be open to a discussion with your vet. Your vet will examine your pet to make sure there are no other health issues that should be checked out and then recommend appropriate diets and life-style changes.
Dogs: Your vet can prescribe a special diet that is specifically formulated to help with safe weight loss.
* Low calories
*High dietary fiber to help your dog feel full
* Right balance of soluble and insoluble fiber to increase digestibility
* Optimal level of protein
* High L-carnitine and lysine to help burn fat while preventing loss of muscle mass
The most common reason a cat becomes overweight is related to diet. If you feed your cat too much, he’ll become overweight. However, even if you feed your cat the right amount of food, a low-quality diet can rob him of the energy he needs to stay in tip-top shape. Cats can be difficult when it comes to changes in diet. Cats can develop liver disease if they lose weight too rapidly. It is very important to work with your veterinary team when trying to diet cats.
Catabolism—which is not short for “cat metabolism”!—is a metabolic chemical reaction that breaks down complex foods into simple nutrients while releasing energy. When you feed a poor diet, your cat won’t have much vim or vigor. If you feed healthy foods, this will increase his metabolism, giving him more energy.
Arthritis or spinal conditions mean low impact exercise. No jumping up and down from couches, beds or after a Frisbee at the park. Your veterinarian will be glad to help work out an exercise regimen that’s appropriate and beneficial for your pet’s condition.
Like their wild ancestors, cats love to perch high in the air to better observe their prey, whether it’s the dog, another cat, a toy or your head. If you provide your cat a tall cat tree, he’ll climb up and down it several times a day. Scratching posts are also good for stretching “exercises,” like cat yoga.
It’s important to make sure that your cat is not only physically fit, but also mentally healthy. Playing with toys and other enrichment tools, like boxes, bags and the plastic milk jug will stimulate his prey instincts, triggering him to run, leap and pounce. Laser pointers, catnip mice and feather toys also make fine prey.
Playing with your kitty stimulates his body and brain and deepens the bond between you. Of course, having a playmate is the easiest way for your cat to stay active. Two cats are usually easier to manage than one—they keep each other entertained—so consider adopting two cats instead of one.
Your dog’s ideal amount of daily exercise varies according to his age, size, breed and physical condition. Young dogs and active breeds do best with 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise at least three days a week. If your dog is overweight or impaired, take things slow and work up to a daily regimen that keeps him fit and comfortable.
Even if you can’t set a fast pace, walks will still give your dog mental stimulation. Just be sure to supplement walks with other forms of more vigorous movement if appropriate.
Playing active games, like fetch, with your dog is an excellent way to keep him fit and alert. Not only will your dog get a workout, but he’ll also enjoy bonding with you, and he’ll get that all-important mental stimulation he needs.
If you don’t have more than one dog, try to arrange play dates with friends who also have dogs. While you and your pal enjoy quality time together, your dog can romp with his friend.
Dogs get bored, just like people, so select activities for your dog that exercise their bodies and their brains, like hiking, swimming or brisk walks in different areas of your neighborhood. If you walk with your dog, try to do so along interesting paths with different sights and smells. The pool, beach and forest are also fun, exciting places for you and your dog to work out.
The best exercise plan for you and your dog combines a cardiovascular workout with stamina-building exercises.
If you exercise your dog, you won’t just give your dog the activity he needs; you’ll also be adopting a healthier lifestyle for yourself. You and your dog will both enjoy stronger bodies, more active minds and longer, healthier lives.
Just like humans, your pet can develop pain and mobility issues due to the onset of osteoarthritis, degenerative joint disease, stifle joint instability or hip dysplasia. These conditions can greatly reduce their quality of life. Pets with these problems can have trouble getting up, may become depressed, and may exhibit symptoms or sounds that let you know they are in pain. At this stage in their life, your veterinarian may recommend various supplements to improve joint function and a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) such as rimadyl or metacam to reduce pain.
When a pet has a sudden onset of acute, sharp pain, often there will be a cry or yelp. This is usually only associated with sharp, sudden pangs of pain. Dogs with chronic pain (extended over time), do not do this. As a matter of fact, sometimes their pain is not obvious. You need to look at the overall activity of a pet. Sometimes a decrease in activity (“more sluggish”, “tired”) is a sign of pain. Also lack of appetite, panting, or pacing and restlessness are other indicators. Dogs that are in chronic pain will also become irritable and grumpy and may even snap at people when they are touched.
Your vet may recommend the following:
1. Anti-inflammatory medication
2. Joint supplements – like glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate
3. Adequan injections– a joint fluid enhancer
4. Omega 3 & Omega 6 fatty acid supplement
When medication is no longer enough, and your pet just isn’t able to move without pain, you should seek your veterinarian’s opinion about other treatment options available for your pet. He or she may suggest getting a specialist involved.
- Medical appliances such as carts or braces can give your pet the support they need.
- Pet Carriers can provide relief while keeping your pet socialized
- For more serious conditions, surgery by a board certified surgeon may be necessary.
Surgery will require time and patience on the owner’s part – it will be a long recovery. But the result can be a rejuvenated companion that’s willing and able to get back into action.
- Cold Laser
- Stem cell therapy