Battling Pet Obesity

Battling Pet Obesity with the Healthy Weight Protocol

Pet obesity is a serious health threat to our beloved animal companions. Obesity does not affect just humans. Domestic pets also are facing an obesity epidemic. Veterinary science is doing increased research into the effect of excess weight on our pets and finding that overweight pets have increased risk for osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, ligament tears, and ruptures. It contributes and taxes the obese pets weakened immune systems. This makes them more susceptible to infections and autoimmune diseases such as Cushing’s disease. Obesity also can cause skin and coat infections and hair loss from various causes. An overweight animal has higher risks for having liver disorders such as hepatic lipidosis and places a pet at more risk of suffering from respiratory and pulmonary health conditions and emergencies such as congestive heart failure and breathing complications from anesthesia or medical procedures and increases recovery times from operations. A cat or dog who is overweight also cannot tolerate heat well and is very easily sickened to the point of heat exhaustion and heatstroke in temperatures that would not cause such in a healthy animal. Most dangerous for both humans and our beloved companions are the scientific findings that link excess weight to higher cancer rates for certain types of cancer. While fitness should not become an obsession to the point being healthy becomes unhealthy, being at as close to a healthy body weight saves human lives. Fitness also saves pet lives. For obese pets, weight loss is preventative medicine.

A pet can gain weight easily. Weight gain occurs when more calories are eaten than are used or needed by a body. When excess food is combined with a sedentary lifestyle, weight is gained. Our pets are often not getting enough exercise. Exercise increases a pet’s lean body mass. The lean body mass or muscles and organs are what dictate the metabolic rate. Muscle burns more calories than fat and is increased with exercise. Your pet does not need to do the feline or canine equivalent of an extreme workout or crash dieting. A pet does need exercise for their health. All exercise programs for a pet should always be customized for a pet’s current level of physical fitness, overall health, and personality traits. To increase your pet’s physical activity levels, suggested activities are:

Cats

You can encourage exercise to seem rewarding for a cat by placing small portions of cat food in locations that require the cat to move around the home, stalk the aroma of their favorite kitty chow, and jump or climb to access their food. If a cat that typically just walks into the kitchen for food must make now expend effort and burn calories to get their meals, they are more active and are more motivated. Having to find and exert themselves a little for food also stimulates cats’ natural hunting instincts. Cats can also be provided with food puzzles that require the cat to roll it about or press on it to release the food or treats. Making a cat work for their food encourages a cat to be more active and provides the necessary mental stimulation that can be a reason why a cat may overeat. Cats can eat when bored, just like we humans. Eating is an unhealthy way to deal with boredom and leads to human and feline obesity. Adding more vertically oriented cozy sunny lounging or perching spots in the home may create a more exciting environment for the cat to explore and the cat will climb more. If a cat must climb to have the perfect spot to be observing everyone and everything from a sunbeam, they will climb. Cat condos, treehouses and lots of cat furniture can be installed or created to provide indoor cats with high places and climbing opportunities for their improved health. Actively engaging in chasing games by using powered remote or automatically activated toy or more laser point with the goal of getting a cat up and moving should be engaged in and improve the bond between you and your fat cat. Your cat may also benefit from being trained to walk on a leash and being taken for short secure walks to exercise.

Dogs

Even overweight dogs love interacting with their humans so activities that are shared with you are excellent activities to increase a dog’s physical activity levels and ensure calories are burned instead of converted into lean mass and energy instead of fat and increased health risks. A dog who has been very sedentary and is unaccustomed to activity should be slowly acclimated to longer walks. Dogs enjoy exploring the outdoors and if properly on a leash and increasing the length of the walk at a pace the dog seems comfortable with, the dog will get exercise. Dog parks and “pup playdates” are ideal to get a dog more active and encourages them with socialization and plenty of opportunities to play chase and engage in group canine physical playful behavior. Only well socialized and trained dogs should be taken to the dog park. Frisbee and toys that require a dog to chase and fetch an object can get a dog off the sofa and across the room a few times. As some dogs are very food-motivated, making a dog who is obese engage in physical activity with a food dispenser puzzle to get their favorite kibble released can make them work a little and play for their food.

The Healthy Weight Protocol

Providing more exercise activities and physically active enrichment activities alone cannot cause weight loss and the time needed to do activities is hard for most pet owners to provide. A dietary change that prevents overfeeding is required. Exercise and proper nutrition are partners to have sustainable and long-term significant weight loss.  The University of Tennessee and Hill’s Pet Nutrition collaborated to develop a way to help veterinarians and pet owners do just that make plans for evaluation and then compiles the collected data to create a scientifically backed, practical and safe strategic weight loss program.

The pet is evaluated first. A vet or a trained tech measures four parts of a dog’s body and six measurements on a cat’s body. The animal’s BCS (Body Condition Score) and health conditions are all factored together to create a pet’s ideal goal weight and calculate the percentage of body fat the pet has. The Healthy Weight Protocol tool then produces a personalized weight-loss nutritional plan and a weight loss schedule using the preferred diet chosen by the pet owner and the vet. This full diet protocol is unique for pets. The chosen pet food includes any combination of both wet and dry food and allows treats. If you are serious about helping your pet lose weight and have a long healthy enjoyable life without the disabling health risks or chronic illnesses that arise from obesity, consult with your vet to see if the University of Tennessee and Hill’s Pet Nutrition’s Healthy Weight Protocol is suitable for your pet.

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