Posts Tagged ‘importance of weight management’

The Importance of Weight Management

Friday, June 6th, 2014

The Importance of Weight Management

By: the CRCG Experts Richardson


Obesity rates in the United States continue to rise in children and adults. What is interesting and alarming is the parallel of increasing obesity in our furry companions. Approximately 52.5% of dogs and 58.3% of cats are overweight or obese in this country and the numbers appear to be rising. Carrying around this excess weight can have devastating effects on their health, longevity, functional mobility and pain.

Weight gain is serious enough in and of itself, but several other conditions can exacerbated or caused by weight gain. In dogs, osteoarthritis is one of the most common disorders seen with obesity. The increased stress on the soft tissues and joints predisposes to instability or inflammation which in turn can cause arthritis in patients. Other disorders seen include difficulty breathing , intolerance to exercise and heat, problems with anesthesia, skin disorders, increased fat/cholesterol in the blood stream, pancreatitis, renal disease and decreased life span. In cats, some cancers, diabetes, skin disorders, urinary tract disease, and mouth problems are linked to obesity.

As a veterinarian and animal rehabilitation therapist, I converse with clients about weight A LOT. One of the most concerning issues that I find is that a lot of owners do not recognize that their companion is overweight. That said, here is some to help identify obesity in your companions. Purina has a great set of body condition score charts to help you identify if your companion may be overweight:

Body Condition Article/Info

Cat Body Condition Info

If you still are not sure if your pet is overweight, check with your veterinarian. Weight on a scale is only 1 criteria in identifying obesity.

I also encounter clients who feel that a pet has had a hard life and should be allowed to eat whatever they want. I agree that those companions that have had a hard life need to be spoiled, but unfortunately if we give them whatever they want, we are increasing the stress on their bodies and not doing them any favors. Spoiling a pet can not only include food treats but all the love, cuddle time and play time they want. In essence, they want our attention. There are so many ways that we can give attention that don’t include food. Treats used judiciously and love given freely is the best way to spoil your companion and keep them healthy.

If you do discover that your furry friend is overweight or obese, you may be wondering what to do next. The first step is to talk with a veterinarian. Depending on factors such as your companion’s medical history, present body condition score and length of time they have been obese, a controlled weight loss plan will be developed with you to provide a healthy weight loss that will not cause harm to your friend. And BE PATIENT. Weight loss in companions is a process that occurs at its own pace. It is recommended you weigh your pet every 1-2 weeks and keep a food journal. I highly recommend the journal. In a family, there may be a lot of “treats” given that not everyone knows about.

Another part of a healthy weight loss plan is exercise. Sound familiar? Regular exercise every day is the key to increasing metabolic rates and building muscle mass, both of which help burn fat. Daily walks can be a great start to an exercise plan in an obese dog. These walks may start by just going to the mailbox or walking 3 laps around the yard, but as your friend loses weight they will be able to go further. Cats can also go on walks, but for those feline friends that are not up for a stroll, creativity is needed. Engage them in play that requires movement. In some cats, this can be very difficult, but keep at it. You can make a difference by encouraging exercise.

For those companions that are so overweight or have conditions where walking causes pain, there are other exercises that can help to lose weight. Swimming is a great exercise that does not put compressive stress on joints and can allow for freedom of movement. Like walks, short swims at first are needed, but can be increased as your pet’s endurance increases. Other exercises can be shown to you by a animal rehabilitation practitioner based on your pets needs.