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A 'Weighty' Issue.....

We humans aren’t the only ones battling weight issues – so are our pets. Just like us, weight issues can be genetic, due to an underlying endocrine condition like hypothyroidism or Cushings disease, and can also be related to medications your pet may be taking, like steroids to help with allergies or seizure medications like phenobarbital. However, weight gain most likely tends to be related to how we feed our pets. I hope these tips will help your pets stay trim and always consult with your veterinarian before starting a diet for your pet.

  1. Count calories – the feeding guides on pet food bags are formulated for adult, intact dogs (not spayed or neutered). Based on this, you could be feeding 20-30% too much, especially if you have an older pet. Ask your veterinarian how many calories yourpet should be taking in each day to maintain a healthy weight. A guide is to take your pet’s weight and divide it by 2.2, multiply this by 30 and add 70.
  2. Measure meals – use a proper measuring cup to properly measure out the amount to feed your pet. Studies show that giving as few as 10 extra kibbles a day can add up to a pound of weight gain per year for small dogs. Once you calculate out how much to feed your pet, divide this amount into 2-3 meals per day. This will help stimulate their metabolism to burn off the calories.
  3. Treats – if you want to feed treats, make sure they are good treats. Too many treats are full of sugar and fats. Try and find treats that are low calorie and sugar free. Make sure you consider the calories of the treats when calculating out how many calories your pet should be eating per day. As few as 30 extra calories per day can mean an extra 3 or more pounds in a year. Your pet won’t know the difference between getting the whole treat or just part of a treat. So break up the treat into pieces and consider only giving half.
  4. Vegetables – sliced apples, bananas, carrots, green beans, broccoli and celery can be fed as treats, provided that your pet does not have any allergies to these foods. Stay away from onion and garlic – they are toxic.
  5. Supplements – omega 3 fatty acids, found in fish oils, have been proven to help prevent numerous diseases because of their anti-oxidant effect. They also have anti-inflammatory properties. Almost every pet and people can benefit from taking these. L-carnitine has been shown to help with weight loss and promote lean muscle mass. Again, always consult with your veterinarian before starting supplements.
  6. Strive for health – 20-30 minutes of brisk walking helps boost immune function in dogs. This also improves cardiovascular health and may reduce some behavioural problems. This is also true for people – well maybe not the behavioural problems.
  7. Watch those carbs. A high protein, low carbohydrate diet helps prevent obesity and since obesity can predispose dogs to diabetes mellitus, we are also lessening the chance of diabetes. Look for a low or no-grain option with a protein source as the first ingredient.
  8. Read the food labels. Is the diet complete and balanced? Is it life stage appropriate? When purchasing a dog food you should be looking for the AAFCO seal of approval (Association of American Feed Control Officials). AAFCO sets standards for feeding control protocols, establishes minimum and maximums for key nutrients and sets the nutrient guidelines for life stages. Be careful when feeding a food ‘For All Life Stages’ – this is basically puppy food. No wonder pets gain weight when they have been eating puppy food all their life! What may be appropriate for your puppy is not appropriate for the adult and the senior pet.

All the best, 

Dr. Kathleen Fulop, D.V.M.

Amberlea Animal Hospital ~ serving Durham, Pickering, Ajax, Whitby, Scarborough & the GTA

Dr. Kathleen Fulop is the clinic principal and owner of Amberlea Animal Hospital in Pickering. With continuing education a priority to her practice, she has a keen interest in emergency medicine and surgery along with all other facets of veterinary care. As well as a ‘Friend of Golden Rescue’
by supporting our foster dogs, Dr. Fulop and her husband enjoy spending their leisure time with their own two Golden Retrievers!