More than half of the nation’s pets are overweight or outright obese. This is a serious problem, as it puts millions of domesticated animals at risk for a number of severe disorders and illnesses, not the least of which is diabetes.
Most cases of diabetes will require insulin injections and diet therapy. Weight management is the best way to avoid a diabetes diagnosis and a critical piece in managing the disease. Just as they are for humans, proper nutrition along with monitoring calories and portion sizes, and regular exercise are important factors in successful weight management. Here are four tactics for success:
- Count calories: What should my pet be eating to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight? How many calories are needed each day? What does a serving size look like? First, consult with your veterinarian about the right diet and feeding guidelines suited to your pet’s medical history, breed and lifestyle. Choose an appropriate food , preferably a blend that is high in protein and low in carbs. Don’t rely solely on the manufacturers’ feeding recommendations, which are typically calibrated for adult animals who are neither spayed nor neutered. Never guesstimate the amount of kibble or canned food you are serving but use a measuring cup or scale for accurate portions. Just a few extra nuggets of cat or dog food can yield an entire pound over the course of a year. Eating the same foods, the same portions, and at the same times during the day also help manage blood sugar levels for pets with diabetes. Quick tip: Using a food puzzle is a fun way to slow down a speed eater. If you are training your dog, you can also use the kibble as a reward system during a training session.
- Understand what a healthy weight looks like: A better understanding of what a healthy weight looks like for a pet can reduce obesity rates. Fat and happy, as the saying goes, is not the objective for optimal health and longevity. Breed type and genetics are important factors to consider. As part of your pet’s regular exam, the veterinarian should include discussion of the body condition chart.
- Know the trick behind treats: Choose only healthy treats that are low in calories and bereft of sugar. Remember: treats contribute to the daily caloric content. It’s easy to associate food and treats with love which we want to give to our pets in abundance. Instead, use treats as a bonus for proper behavior. Quick tip: Crunchy veggies and fruits can be a tasty alternative to store-bought goodies.
- Wag the dog: In other words, exercise. Moderate aerobic activity every day is essential to a healthy, weight-conscious lifestyle. Twenty to 30 minutes of walking is sufficient for most dogs, and such activity has been proven to aid in cardiovascular health, immune system functionality, and a reduction of behavioral issues. Better yet, consider a dog daycare program where your dog will get the right balance of physical activity, mental stimulation and rest throughout the day. Cats are slightly trickier, but a laser pointer or flashlight beam bouncing around the floor, or a wad of paper to chase can give our whiskered friends a relatively vigorous workout.
A healthy lifestyle focused on diet and exercise is vital to weight management to either avoid or successfully treat diabetes in dogs and cats. Lots of pets with diabetes lead normal lives when the disease is managed properly. If you are concerned about your pet’s health or have noticed a change in behavior or regular habits, Doylestown Veterinary Hospital & Holistic Pet Care is here to help. Call (215) 345-6000 or schedule a visit today.