Hola! Welcome again to my monthly column where I present different topics related to our amazing pets. This time, I am talking about something that is a sensitive subject for some of us: weight issues.
I think most of us humans are struggling with our weight, but we are not alone. Our pets can also have weight issues, and it seems that obesity and being overweight have become more prevalent recently, likely because of quarantine since our pets are getting more treats than before.
It is also hot as hell out there so not the best conditions to be walking or jogging with our dogs.
Did you know that being overweight/obese is one of the most common diseases we see with dogs and cats? It may not be surprising, as we humans also find that to be accurate with our own species.
Obesity can also lead to other issues like diabetes in cats and worsen the quality of life of pets that have arthritis, due to the extra weight they carry around.
Now, there is a difference between being overweight and being obese. In fact, there are different scales to determine if our babies are in ideal weight, underweight or above the ideal weight. These scales help us identify what is called the Body Condition Score (BCS).
The most popular ones use a scale of 1-9 or 1-5, where 1 represents emaciation. The higher the number, the closer to obesity that the dog or cat may be. If you search online, you will find these guidelines with associated images to help you determine where your baby might be. In essence, we want to feel their ribs when we gently pet them, and we also want to see a waistline from the side and from above.
Assuming you may now be feeling a bit concerned, let us discuss how we can help them get back on track. There are three basic things to be aware of, and they are pretty much the same for us humans: exercise, types of food/treats and portion control.
If we are trying to have our pets lose weight, we need to increase the amount of exercise they currently get. Cats can be more challenging to exercise, but you can identify toys or activities that seem to stimulate them and use them to your advantage.
When it comes to food, there are commercial diets that are not very healthy, and there are some excellent options out there. But you may also want to consider a slow transition into a weight management option from a reputable company.
If your baby is obese, there are prescription diets available through your veterinarian, and they are an amazing aid with the more complicated situations.
Also, keep in mind that portion control is important, so I recommend looking at the bag of food to find out how much to feed per day.
When offering treats, consider healthier options like baby carrots, green beans, diced apples and cucumbers. Once again, remember portion control!
Needless to say, changes do not happen overnight, so please be patient. As long as we can see positive changes in at least 2-3 months, then we may be on the right track.
It is important to mention that there are different possible causes of weight gain other than lack of exercise, feeding a less than ideal diet or feeding too many treats. These possible causes include diabetes, hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease, among others.
Some people say that after spaying or neutering, dogs and cats also gain weight. While this is partially true with some pets, it is because their metabolism changes, and we have to adjust their lifestyle accordingly to avoid them gaining weight.
I also want to point out that on the other hand, some conditions can cause chronic weight loss. While aging (loss of muscle mass) is probably the most common one, other conditions that can cause weight loss over time are hyperthyroidism in cats, kidney disease (mostly with cats) and different types of cancer.
Whether our babies are more voluptuous or curvaceous or potentially on the more slender side, it is super important to know that trends of weight gain or weight loss are truly key in potentially identifying certain diseases or problems as well as tracking the achievement of goals. This is yet another reason why it is important to have our babies examined by the veterinarian at least every six months to determine if anything has changed and what may need to be done to help them out. In the end, we are not judging the curves or lack of them on your baby, I promise.
We shall meet again next time in this monthly column. Abrazos!
Dr. Josh owns Isla Veterinary Boutique Hospital, 14380 Marsh Lane, Ste. 110 in Addison (next to Tom Thumb). Contact them by phone at 972-738-1111 or visit online at IslaVet.com.