Time For Our Pets: Does Your Pet Need to Hit the Gym?

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How many of you resolved to lose weight this coming year? And how many of your pets need to join you on that journey?

As with humans, your pet’s excess weight can cause serious health consequences. These include:

  • Arthritis
  • Spinal Disc Problems
  • Insulin Resistance and Type 2 Diabetes
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Heart and Respiratory Disease
  • Ligament Injury
  • Kidney Disease
  • Cancer
  • Increased Prevalence of Skin Problems
  • Impaired Wound Healing

Overweight pets are also at increased risk during anesthesia, and their excess fat hinders veterinary assessments such as palpations and listening with a stethoscope.

While you may think that over-feeding your pets demonstrates your love, you are actually decreasing their life expectancy (studies estimate a 15% decrease) and their quality of life. Overweight pets are not as energetic and certainly not as agile as their fit counterparts, meaning they are less capable of playing, interacting, and enjoying their shortened lives.

Is your pet overweight?

When viewed from above, the body should have an hourglass shape. The widest point should be the last rib, with a narrow waist flaring out again at the hips. It should be easy to feel the ribs.

The first step towards weight loss is a trip to your veterinarian to rule out underlying medical causes, such as an underactive thyroid or Cushing’s disease. From there, remember that calories in (through food) must be less than calories out (from activity).

How many calories does your dog need every day?

First you must determine their ideal body weight (to convert pounds to kilograms, divide by 2.2). Your veterinarian can give you a realistic target value.

Next, determine their Resting Energy Requirement (RER) – the daily number of calories required to fuel their body at rest. The RER is a good guideline to determine how much to feed them when they’re dieting. The formula is:

RER (in kcal per day) = [30 x (ideal body weight in kg)] + 70                  

For example, a 10pound/4.55kg dog would require 206 calories per day without any activity. Divide this daily calorie requirement into at least 2 feedings per day.

Weigh them monthly to check their progress. The amount fed can then be adjusted upwards or downwards if the weight loss is too fast or too slow, respectively. Aim for 3-5% of their body weight per month.

If your dog begs for more food, some healthy snack ideas are green beans to fill their belly and baby carrots for the crunch factor. Bear in mind the calorie content of treats relative to your dog’s size. A small dog’s 20 calorie treat can be the equivalent of a Snickers bar to a human.

A word about bully sticks

Many people are under the impression that bully sticks (aka. pizzles) are a healthy chew toy to occupy their dog’s mouth and mind. Made from the uncooked penises of bulls and steers, they are actually quite fattening at roughly 20 calories per inch. A 6 inch bully stick can therefore contain approximately 150 calories. With smaller dogs, this can equate to over half their daily caloric requirements.

Eat less, move more

Get your overweight pet up and moving more often. Place their water and food bowls where they must walk further to reach them. Try putting their food in one room and their water in another so they have to walk between them. When they beg, distract them with play time. It all adds up.

For more information

Remember to always consult your veterinarian about this or any other health issue with your pets. The website petobesityprevention.org is also an excellent resource.

If you’re looking for other ways to interact with your dog and get them up and moving, the Sault Ste. Marie Kennel Club on Fourth Line offers obedience and agility classes. Contact us through our website.  www.ssmkc.com

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Amy Maltman
Amy Maltman is the Director of Education for the Sault Ste. Marie Kennel Club. She is a former pharmacist and the author of the Amazon Best Seller, “Ride Every Stride.”