Obesity is one of the most common issues seen in the veterinary profession, recent studies have estimated that 50-60% of all dogs in Canada are in some way overweight. Large dogs in particular struggle a great deal when carrying extra weight around. It can affect their mobility and cause a great increase in stress on their joints which over time will struggle to keep up with them. Personally, my own dog has struggled with her weight since I adopted her 5 years ago she has gone up and down in weight a few times which goes to show that dealing with weight issues is a lifelong commitment with our furry friends. There are different reasons that can cause obesity many are due to food that is too high in calories, lack of activity or a combination of both. Some causes are more internal such as hypothyroidism which is mostly seen in middle-aged to older dogs but can be determined easily with a blood test.
Food choice and the amount of feeding is a big part in maintaining a pet’s weight, bags of pet food have a feeding guide on the back however it does not take into consideration the pets current body condition or their daily activity level. There are calculations that can be done to determine the kcal/day that best fits your pets current body condition as well as their daily activity. This is something we can easily calculate for you at your pets visit with us. However, some pets require a certain food to help with weight loss, my dog in particular is a big girl with a bigger appetite since she loves to eat, I decided to put her on one of the lower calorie diets we offer at the clinic. With the food having a lower calorie content per cup she is able to get more cups of food per day which leaves her feeling more satisfied while still losing weight. Another factor into successful weight loss is monitoring treat intake, this is one of the harder aspects to follow since we all love to spoil our pets. However, much like food not all treats are created equally, many treats are very high in calories such as the regular sized milk bones which are 40 calories per treat! Just because your pet is on a diet doesn’t mean they can’t have treats there are low calorie treats available or if they prefer a more natural treat you can use carrots or cucumber as a treat.
Another big part of our pets maintaining a healthy weight is exercise, this is something that is also breed dependent as there are some breeds that are content with a 20 min walk per day and other types that need up to 6km walk a day! However, there are many different types of ways for pets to get exercise, some dogs such as herding dogs enjoy things like agility or fly ball which is a great way for them to expend physical and mental energy. Other dogs prefer just a leisurely walk, personally walking my lab is easy he walks quickly and could walk for hours which is sometimes what we do if the weather is nice. However, my big girl is not as into exercise as she does get sore and tired much quicker than my lab, with her I do shorter walks and on nicer days I might take her for multiple shorter walks so she is still getting enough exercise but she is also getting enough breaks in between walks. A big part of exercise with our pets is finding something that they enjoy but also something that we can try to put into our everyday routine.
As I have said before weight loss and keeping the weight off your pet is a lifelong commitment but the payoff from a happy healthy pet are years of fun and great memories that we all know is worth a little extra work.
Written by: Carlie Brown, RVT