1. What is the harm in a few extra pounds?
The simple answer is because studies show fit pets live longer (an average of 2 years) and feel better. The medical answer is because fat causes inflammation and inflammation leads to serious chronic diseases such as arthritis, liver dysfunction, kidney dysfunction, decrease immune function, skin issues, heart disease and a significant increase risk of cancer.
2. Why use a weight loss diet?
We chose a weight loss diet because we want to make sure despite decreasing overall calories we still maintain all the nutritional requirements. One must be careful, as studies have shown that just restricting quantities of a regular diet can result in a reduction of essential nutrients that may result in a nutrient deficiency over time. It is obvious we do not want to have nutrient deficiencies, as these can be serious, for example a vitamin B6 deficiency can result in neurological clinical signs and that can be fatal.
3. It Is All About The Calories
It makes sense that if you do not know how many calories your pet needs to eat then you do not know how much to feed. The feeding guide on the side of the bag is just that – a guide. And a little secret is that the guide is based on an un-neutered/spayed active dog. Right away you are likely feeding too much if your dog has been “fixed” as they have a 25% decrease calorie requirement. We can help you calculate those calories or if you would like to do the basic math yourself…
To calculate your pets resting energy requirement (RER)(weight in kilograms x 30) then add 70 = RER
This number is then adjusted based on life style.
- For weight loss in dogs we use the RER. For obese prone pets or inactive pets (<30 minutes a day) RER x 1.2
- For weight loss in cats we use RER x 0.8
This gives us a basic starting point. Just like each person is a little different so is each pet. For example a high energy Jack Russel will need a few more calories than a laid back Pug even if the scale says they weigh the same. That is where the body condition score will help us make adjustment.
4. How Can I Tell If My Pet May Be Overweight – The Body Condition Score
The following is the World Small Animal Veterinary Association’s guidelines on how to do a body condition score to tell if your pet is at an optimal weight. This is a hands on drill: you want to do a light touch but you need to make sure you are not being fooled by any long coats.
5. Try A Scale Instead Of A Cup.
Leaving a full bowl down and just allowing a pet to free feed dose not work in 90% of pets. It is like that bowl of potato chips where you are just going to have one chip and then before you know it the bowl somehow is empty. Studies have shown that eating as few as 10 extra kibble a day can lead to an extra pound of weight gain in a year in cats and small dogs.
So it is important to measure the food and IF weight loss is your goal then you need accurate measurements. Using a small scale turns out to be a more accurate method of measuring daily food portion as studies have shown that using a measuring cup there can be as much as a 20% difference between servings. With Miss Maggie I started to pre-weigh her food into ziplock bags so that her meal became a grab and go when I was in a rush.
Movement and exercise are aides to help with weight loss but remember weight loss is 80% diet and 20% exercise. One can easily out eat their exercise. Walking your dog at a brisk pace (ie. one kilometre in 10 minutes) studies have shown that a dog will burn 1.1 Kilocalorie/Kilogram/Kilometre.
What does that mean????
A 10kg (22lb) dog would burn 11 calories per Kilometre so it would take a 0.45km walk to burn one 5 kcal mini milk bone treat (and who feeds just one), a 2.7km walk to burn off one 30 calorie Beggin bacon treat, a 4.8km to burn off one small 53 kcal Pedigree Denta Stick and a 27km to burn off a 300 kcal pig’s ear.
But exercise is important as it helps maintain lean muscle mass, so what to do?
- Start slowly and gradually
- Be aware that overweight pets are susceptible to heat stress – and heat strokes can be fatal. Choose your exercise time wisely and once again start slow and gradually build.
- Talk to us about a physiotherapy exercise plan that we can give you to help you gradually make your pet stronger.
- Overweight pets put added strain on their joints, tendons and ligaments, as well they have poorly conditioned muscles and thus fatigue quickly. To avoid creating lameness or ligament damage start with controlled flat surface walks on a leash and avoid high impact activities. Consider looking at swimming, which is a great way to loose weight and minimize impact on the joints.
Interested in swimming or water exercise check out the following locations:
7. Thinking Outside The Bowl – Feeding Toys – YouTube Video
Want to try something new and my personal favorite? Think about trying a feeding toy. Feeding toys have been shown to increase activity and decrease problematic behaviour. All pets need jobs and feeding toys are a way of creating enrichment in a pet’s life and allow our pets to express the predatory nature by “hunting” for their food.
You can use something as simple as a homemade feeding toy, a feeding ball or once your pet gets the hang of it consider some of the more complex dog puzzles like the ones by Nina Ottosson (cats use them too – check it out on YouTube).
Looking for feeding toys check out Amazon or stop by Fraser Valley Animal Hospital and check out some of our favorite.