If you made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight and improve your health this year, raise your hand! Well, don’t all of you look silly with your hands raised right now! Don’t worry, I’m right there with you. I haven’t quite started on that resolution yet but I do have a plan...
What about your pets? Did you know that an estimated 60% of cats and 56% of dogs are obese in the United States? This is compared to approximately 35% of adult humans who are overweight. I was actually shocked at these numbers! As unhealthy as American society is reputed to be, we have actually created an even worse health epidemic for our pets. And I am ashamed to admit that I have a cat that fits into that category.
The first step is recognizing that your pet is overweight. How can you do this? There are a few easy methods to try. First, check out those go home notes from us! You will find a weight listed from your most recent visit. More importantly, you will see a chart of your pet’s weight over the last few years. If these numbers keep going up, we need to make some changes at home! Secondly, you can actually do a pretty accurate assessment of your pet’s weight at home with a “strategic” massage. I like to call all of the palpation that I do at the hospital a “massage”. It makes me feel better about myself. Anyways, start by laying your hands over your pet’s rib cage. Without pressing inward, can you feel each individual rib bone? Now lay your hand over their spine. Lightly stroke down the back. Do you feel little bumps and ridges as you move toward the tail? If the answer to either of these questions is “no,” Huston, we have a problem!
Okay, your pet (like my Scratch-kitty) is overweight. What do you do now? Logically, we all know that having them eat less calories and burn more calories is the only way to weight loss success. But how many calories should you feed? Do NOT follow the recommendations on your bag or can of food. Instead, take your pet’s current weight in pounds and divide by 2.2. This is their weight in kg. Now, take that number and multiply by 30. Finally, add 70. This is a VERY simplified way to get a general idea of how many calories a spayed or neutered, indoor dog or cat should be fed. For example, Scratch is 14.8 pounds. He should be eating about 271 calories per day. If you are feeding your pet more than this calculated amount, your first step should be to reduce the calories fed. Measure that food! Cut out all human food! Log what you give your pet for 30 days to be sure that you do not cheat!
Keep in mind - this is just a starting point! Every pet’s metabolism is different. I have been feeding Scratch 213 calories per day of a high protein, low carbohydrate diet (my usual recommendation for cats) and he has not lost an ounce. Now what?
I loved this quote from the Pet Obesity Prevention Society, “ Weight loss isn’t about starvation or deprivation; it’s about safe and sustainable lifestyle changes. We’re not simply chasing a number on a scale; we’re improving overall quality of life.”
I can not just continue to reduce Scratch’s caloric intake. I need a new plan.
One part of that plan is an exercise regimen. How to make a cat exercise? Well, again, everyone is different! For Scratch, a laser pointer did the trick. We have started out by “working him out” with the pointer for 5 minutes twice daily. We plan to work up from there. Check out Dr. Plodzik’s post for more ideas!
What to do with his nutrition, though? If your pet is not losing weight with a safe calorie restriction plan and implementation of exercise, a visit to us is in order. We will most likely run some bloodwork to be sure that a health problem is not the cause of that weight gain. Diseases like hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease, and even some types of cancer can actually cause weight gain. If a screening test for these types of health problems is normal, your pet would most likely benefit from a prescription diet to assist his or her metabolism.
So, that is where our Scratch is headed. He is starting the transition to Hill’s C/D Metabolic Stress diet. Because, yes, cats can feel stress too! I’ll keep you posted on his weight loss progress next month!