Now that the holidays are over, many of us plan to restore the balance that was destructed during fits of overindulging in the form of New Year resolutions; however, when it comes to our pets, at what point should we do the same? According to the latest nationwide survey conducted by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, the fifth annual veterinary survey found 53 percent of adult dogs and 55 percent of cats to be classified as overweight or obese by their veterinarian. Some of the variables that may contribute to this problem include food, lack of exercise, age, metabolism, and whether pets are spayed or neutered.
I asked Dr. Whitney Reed of Pet Care Center of New Orleans to clarify the most common misconceptions pet owners make when attempting weight loss as well as tips for maintaining a healthy weight for pets.
Food: Generally speaking, one cup of food daily per 20 pounds is an optimal serving size; however, all food has different caloric density, so it is important to note calorie, fat, and protein content per portion served. Dr. Reed emphasized that "the amount recommended is normally determined for a young, very active, not spayed or neutered dog or cat. If the owner and the veterinarian decide the owner is over feeding, perhaps just portion control will help with the weight loss. If that is not the case, then simply feeding less of a food not calorie restricted is unlikely to produce weight loss without creating deficiencies in other nutrients required to help a pet lose weight." Much like humans, several smaller meals throughout the day aid in weight loss because more calories are burned during digestion.
Exercise: As a general rule of thumb, 20-60 minutes of daily activity is sufficient. As with people, exercise needs to be introduced gradually. Dr. Reed recommended swimming as a form of exercise for pets with arthritis and/or orthopedic issues. The variety of exercises are very limited when it comes to felines as opposed to dogs; however, Dr. Reed suggested a little creativity in the form of professionally training cats to walk on a leash as well as providing toys in a supervised enviroment with lasers, strings, and balls.
Sex: There are no significant differences in weight loss between male and female pets. Whether the pet has been spayed or nutered is what matters most. Dr. Reed explained that an "unaltered pet will lose weight faster than a spayed or neutered animal. Intact males are usually very trim; this is not to suggest that you should not spay or neuter your animal. Unfortunately, Intact animals are generally more predisposed to hormonal disorders later in life."
Metabolism: Conclusions have yet to be made at exactly what point in time a pet's metabolism begins to wither; however, Dr Reed said that we "typically do not see overweight pets until they're older than two years. After two years of age, the prevalence of overweight dogs and cats increases and reaches a maximum around six to eight. Studies have shown a plateau or slight decrease in prevalence of overweight dogs and cats until about 12 years of age when the prevalence tends to decrease markedly."
For many owners, their pets are considered cherished members of the family. If you are interested in visiting Pet Care Center, they have convenient locations in Metairie, New Orleans, and Chalmette or you can visit their website.