Fluffy or Fat? Weight loss for your pet could mean a longer life

by Karla Frazier, DVM

Recent estimates report that 50% of our canine pets are overweight and as many 25% are classified as obese.  These are scary statistics!  Unfortunately most pet owners are not equipped with the knowledge of how to assess their pet’s body condition.  Excess weight can have serious health consequences for your pet if it goes unaddressed.   An overweight pet is more likely to develop joint discomfort, diabetes and potential respiratory complications.  Purina has recently completed a 14 year longevity study where they found Labradors of lean body condition to live TWO YEARS longer than overweight Labradors!

So how can you tell if your pet is just fluffy or fat?  Your veterinarian can determine your pet’s body condition, any potential medical causes for the weight gain, appropriate methods of weight loss and  reasonable weight loss goals.

Canine Body Score Chart Purina

Healthy weight loss is commonly resolved with changes in diet and exercise routines.  The most common cause for excess weight gain is due to over-feeding.  If your pet is overweight, you will need reduce the amount of daily calorie intake and increase the amount of daily activity – it’s a simple equation – calories in must be less than calories burned!  Your veterinarian can recommend an appropriate diet for your pet to promote healthy weight loss.  Human snacks should be eliminated completely and dog treats should be replaced with healthy options such as apples, carrots or green beans.

Sometimes it is hard to find time in the day to get your pet up and active.  You may want to look into ‘doggy daycare’ for a fun way to have your pet exercise and play with other pooches while you are busy at work.  Dog parks are also a fun and easy way to incorporate more activity into your pet’s routine – even if it is just one or two times a week.  Exercise is also easily completed at home with regular walks, playing fetch or even chasing a laser pointer inside the house (for our smaller canine friends!).

Don’t let your pet become a statistic.  Talk about your pet’s weight with your veterinarian and take any recommendations seriously – it may just add years to your pet’s life!

Karla Frazier is an Advance NC Veterinarian. Dr. Frazier received her undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia. She is a graduate of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. She began her veterinary career in the Winston Salem area in 1994; opening Hillsdale Animal Hospital in 2000.

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