Let’s face it, this is a time of the year when we’re all carrying a few extra pounds. Whether from inactivity or holiday excess, our waistlines expand in the winter.. The same problem which plagues people befalls pets too. Veterinarians see an abundance of porky pets right now. Just as obesity is bad for us, it’s bad for animals too. Joints carry a greater load which can lead to injury. The heart must increase its output to keep up with extra pounds and the pancreas functions full time as blood sugar swings from high to low. Overweight pets are prone to Diabetes, just like overweight people. It’s not all our fault. Who in his right mind wants to walk a dog when it’s 20 degrees outside? And most cats prefer to lie in their window perches, like the prince or princesses they are.
How do you know if your pet is overweight? Here’s my advice. Take the aerial view. Look down at Fido or Garfield while he’s in a standing position. If you don’t see a waistline(you know, an indentation behind the ribs), then he’s got some pounds to shed. You should be able to feel ribs easily. Most owners switch to a light formula food to cut back on calories which is the most efficient way to accomplish weight loss, but if you’ve just bought the industrial size of Fido’s favorite chow, then cut back by a quarter the amount you’re feeding. And skip the Tostidos. Feeding dogs extra human food such as table scraps or giving multiple treats through the day packs on pounds. Some owners give food rewards every time a dog comes in from out of doors. This is unnecessary. Give verbal praise instead. The pooch will get thinner and you’ll save money on biscuits. Pets, like people, can safely lose two pounds per week.
Pets need to get moving. Bundle up and get the dog out for a walk-everyday, twice a day. That exercise will start to increase his metabolism and allow him to burn calories more efficiently. Plus, it tones muscles and gets blood flowing more vigorously, easing the work of the heart. As the weight comes off, you’ll find your dog has more energy. He’ll be able to walk farther and at a faster clip. Your waistline will benefit too!
Indoor cats flourish with environmental enrichment. Keep food and littler boxes far apart so cats must walk to the opposite ends of the house to access them. Or better still, break the daily ration into 4-6 portions and plant them in different rooms of the house. That way, your kitty will need to engage in a mock ‘hunt’ to eat,, just as big cats in the wild. Interact with cats in playful activities. Toss catnip mice for them to chase, or use laser beams which create light images for a cat to follow. In a pinch, aluminum foil balls make good playthings.
A few pounds shed will go a long way to improve quality of life for animals. They feel better. They’ll go up stairs more easily. They won’t be sluggards when walking. And you ‘ll save money on food bills. Everybody wins!!
Celeste Conn, VMD
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