Exercise’s Role in Treating Pet Obesity

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The following article is courtesy of our partner, Banfield Pet Hospital. Used with permission.

Overweight/obesity is a serious issue that affects many pets. Recent studies have shown that approximately 40% of pets are overweight and obesity is now the most common disorder of companion animals. A pet is considered overweight/obese if he or she is 20% above his or her ideal body weight.

Exercising overweight dogs

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Excess weight may predispose your pet to a variety of disorders, including osteoarthritis, cardiorespiratory problems, diabetes mellitus, constipation, dermatitis, anesthetic risk and reduced life expectancy. The most successful approach for keeping your pet’s weight under control includes restricting calories and increasing activity. Exercise is just as important as providing a balanced, calorie-controlled diet for safe weight loss, so when designing and incorporating an exercise plan, there are a few things to consider:

  • Work with your veterinarian to design an appropriate weight loss plan.
  • Use a diary and set a consistent plan that is within you and your pet’s capabilities.
  • Start with small changes to exercise level and build from there.
  • Maintain regular weight checks (ideally every two weeks).
  • Remember that safe weight loss is achieved slowly — anywhere from six months to two years; 0.5 to 1 percent/weekly body weight reduction is ideal.

It’s also important to note that while offering food as a reward for good behavior may seem like a good idea, you could also provide alternatives to food treats, such as walks, play sessions, grooming, etc.

Increasing Physical Activity

Stepping up a dog’s level of physical activity can help prevent loss of lean body mass. Increased exercise may also help prevent rapid regain in weight after successful weight reduction while prolonging your pet’s life. The exercise program must be tailored to your individual dog, taking into account any medical conditions and his capabilities. It depends on the breed and age of your dog, as well as your age, health and lifestyle. You can consider controlled exercise, such as lead walking; non-restricted exercise (activities off-lead); swimming and hydrotherapy and treadmill exercise.

For cats, activity can be increased by play sessions using cat toys like fishing rod toys and motorized units. Cats can also be encouraged to “work” for their food through the use of feeding toys.

Managing your pet’s weight can be a challenge. Remember that the most successful strategy is a combination of restricting calories and increasing exercise. Partner with your veterinarian to tailor a plan that’s right for your pet.

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