How do you know if my pet is overweight?
We use the breed standards and our experience with physical exams to determine your pet’s body score. The body-scoring index is a tool to estimate the percentage your pet is over or underweight. The index is based on a scale from one to nine. Five is the ideal body score. Nine is dangerously overweight and one is starving to death. Each additional body score number over or under five represents up to a 7.5% deviation from the ideal weight. As an example a body score of seven indicates your pet is between 7.5 and 15% over the ideal weight. Generally if you place your hands on both sides of your pet’s rib cage and gently move your hands forward and backwards, you should be able to feel his/her ribs without having to apply inward pressure. If you must apply pressure to feel those ribs, you are pressing your fingers through a layer of fat. There should also be a narrowing in the tummy region as you view your pet from the top and the side views. Different breeds have different degrees of “tummy tuck”.
Why should I be concerned if my pet is a few pounds too heavy?
Being overweight is a risk factor for many health-related issues. If our pets can avoid the health problems we add 2 ½ -3 years to their lives and their time with us is also more comfortable for them. Some of these conditions more likely to occur in overweight pets include arthritis, impaired immune system, diabetes, some liver conditions, pancreatitis, skin infections etc. Recent studies indicate adipose tissue releases inflammation causing substances causing low grade inflammation throughout the body. Over a period of years they believe this predisposes them to various types of cancer. Bottom line: we want him/her to live as long and comfortably as possible.
I am feeding him/her the exact amount of dry or canned food suggested on the package, how could he/she be overweight?
Generally we find the amounts listed on pet food packaging are accounting for the highest metabolizing pets of that size. We usually start with 25% less than recommended until we can determine the individual pet’s needs. After a pet is neutered they need 20-30% fewer calories. Female pets are more prone to weight gain. Mature pets have a slower metabolism, therefore need fewer calories. Less active pets need fewer calories. Some breeds are predisposed to weight gain. In summary: every pet is an individual and needs a customized feeding plan.
OK, I am convinced of the benefits, but how do I get over the fact that one of the most joyful time of the day for him/her (and me) is feeding food and treats?
We will help you through this paradigm shift. With the proper food and low calorie treats you will still experience the satisfaction of giving and he/she will still have the joy of receiving. It really does seem to be more our issue than theirs. The process is more important to them than the calorie source.
I am willing commit to this process because I want the best for my pet even though it is going to be a challenge for me. What specifically do I need to do from here?
We welcome you to be a part of our hospital’s ”Healthy Weight is Great” weight loss program. Please click on the “Healthy Weight is Great“ link to view some of our clients and patients who have successfully committed to fitness and a healthier life by enrolling in our program. As a part of our “Big Weigh Down” program, we will initially need a one-week food journal recorded by you. We need to find out how many calories your pet is consuming in the form of food and treats. Next, schedule an initial visit with the veterinarian who performed your pet’s recent wellness exam and discuss the daily calorie requirements for his/her ideal weight and adjust for a safe weight loss rate. Using the ideal food (and low calorie treats as needed) we formulate a food and exercise plan for the next two to four weeks leading up to the scheduled weigh–in/recheck. Based on the rate of weight loss we will adjust the food and exercise plan as needed to continue a safe weight loss progression. Once we have the process on a steady progression we schedule courtesy monthly weigh-ins until the ideal weight is achieved. At this point we then transition to a maintenance diet. We celebrate a job well done and everyone lives a better life!