Animal Medical Care Pet Diets and Exercise

Like most Americans our pets have a tendency to become too heavy or even obese. Unless there is a metabolic problem, the only way any of us gain excess weight is by taking in more calories than we are burning (metabolizing). As pet owners we have total control of their food (calorie) intake. Often as with ourselves we may not have the willpower to maintain that control.

Maintaining a rather lean body mass is generally healthier for both people and pets. Dogs and cats kept lean have a much lower incidence of diabetes, hypertension, and joint related diseases. A very good long-term study confirmed that dogs fed a prescribed amount of balanced food and kept lean lived 20% longer than dogs fed free choice.

Exercise is an important part of a healthy equation for pets. Pets that get regular exercise tend to have fewer behavioral problems, are more active, and tend to be more lean. However, with our busy lifestyles it is usually difficult to increase the amount of exercise for pets sufficient to promote weight reduction. It is less time consuming for an owner to control the diet than to effectively increase the exercise sufficient to reduce weight.

We need to be cautious when feeding according to a commercial pet food labels. The volume recommendations are based on the assumption that the pet is reasonably active and healthy. Further, each individual varies with their own metabolism. Also, realize pet food companies are in the business of selling food. Your pet may not need as much food as the label suggests.

Caution is also warranted when feeding table scraps. Often those leftovers are very high in fat. If unaccustomed digestive problems may result, or even life threatening pancreatitis. If you must feed table scraps include vegetables and fiber sources.

If your pet is obese consult with your veterinarian about a treatment plan (target weight, diet, exercise). Specific diets are available to promote weight loss without losing muscle mass. In some cases a medication may be needed to suppress the appetite and decrease fat absorption from the intestine. Remember, weight management is an important tool in promoting good health.

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