Obesity can increase the risk of high blood pressure. Hypertension is one of the commonly overlooked conditions in pets. High blood pressure is known as the “silent killer” because you can’t tell if your pet has it, nor can you see the damage it’s causing.
If your dog or cat has packed on a few extra pounds, have its blood pressure checked by your veterinarian. This simple test can help prevent sudden blindness, heart problems, and kidney failure.
Obese pets have less fun. Dogs love to exercise, it’s in their nature.
It only takes a little research on the history of breeds to notice that most have hunted and worked with humans for thousands of years. Knowing this, do you think a dog that has a hard time getting around would be happy?
Tips to trim excess pounds from your pet and keep them trim:
• Calculate Calories. If you don’t know how many calories your pet needs each day, you don’t know how much to feed. And don’t think you can trust the feeding guides on the bag. Instead, ask your veterinarian to calculate the proper number of calories your pet needs each day. Another good starting point is to use this formula: Divide your pet’s weight by 2.2. Multiply this figure times 30. Add 70 and you’ve get a general idea of how many calories you should be feeding a typical inactive, indoor spayed or neutered dog or cat weighing between 6 and 60 pounds.
Of course, each pet’s metabolism is different so be sure to consult your veterinarian before starting a diet.
• Measure Meals. A pet parent’s single greatest tool in the fight against excess weight is a measuring cup. Some pets, especially cats, are fed an “all-day buffet” that results from the “just keep the bowl full” feeding method. Studies show that feeding as few as 10 extra tiny kibbles of food per day can add up to a pound of weight gain per year in indoor cats and small dogs. After you calculate how many calories your pet needs, determine how much food you should feed each meal—and measure it.
• Tactical Treating. If you’re going to give your pets extra goodies, make them count. Break treats into peewee pieces and divvy them out whenever your pet earns it. Choose low-calorie, no-sugar goodies that provide a health benefit. Whatever treats you give, be sure to count those additional calories. As few as 30 extra calories per day means your pet gains over three pounds in a year.
• Vital Veggies. Try offering baby carrots, green beans, celery, broccoli, cucumbers, sliced apples and bananas or ice cubes. These naturally nutritious tasty tidbits are a healthy option for many dogs. For cats, try a flake of salmon or tuna.
• Hustle for Health. When it comes to living a long, pain-and disease-free life, research proves our most powerful partner is daily exercise. For dogs, as little as 20- to 30-minutes of brisk walking is all it takes to boost immune function, improve cardiovascular health and reduce many behavioral problems. Do yourself and your dog a favor and commit to daily walks, rain or shine. The health benefits of walking extend to both ends of the leash. For cats, try playing with a laser pointer, remote-controlled toy, or ball of paper for 5 to 15 minutes each day.
It’s the responsibility of each of us to help our pets maintain a healthy weight. It’s up to pet owners to feed healthy, nutritious foods and treats and exercise daily. Talk with your veterinarian about specific strategies to keep your pet at a healthy weight. Your pets will be happier, have fewer medical problems, and you’ll enjoy more years together.
Karen Cunningham is president of the St. Lawrence Valley Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.