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Exercise and Its Role in Treating Overweight Pets

Exercise and Its Role in Treating Overweight Pets

If your pet is overweight or obese – that is, 20 percent over ideal body weight – then he or she has a serious medical condition that needs to be addressed. Excess weight may predispose your pet to a variety of disorders, such as osteoarthritis, cardiorespiratory problems, diabetes mellitus, dermatitis, higher anesthetic risk, and reduced life expectancy.

One of the most common disorders that we treat, overweight pets accounted for nearly 27 percent of all dogs and 31 percent of all cats seen by Banfield in 2014.1 That is simply too many pets who are ailed by an often-preventable condition. Here are a few helpful tips on getting your pet back to a healthier weight.

Making a Change

The most successful approach for helping your pet lose weight is no secret: reduce calories, increase activity. When it comes to safe, healthy weight loss, exercise is just as important as a balanced, calorie-controlled diet. Here are a few things to consider when designing and incorporating an exercise plan:

  • Work with your veterinarian to design an appropriate weight loss plan.
  • Use a diary and set a consistent plan that is within you and your pet’s capabilities.
  • Start with small changes to exercise level and build from there.
  • Maintain regular weight checks (ideally every two weeks).
  • Remember that safe weight loss is achieved slowly—anywhere from six months to two years; 0.5 to 1 percent/weekly body weight reduction is ideal.
  • Try offering play sessions and walks as rewards for good behavior instead of treats and fatty foods.

Increasing Physical Activity

More exercise with your pet can help slow the loss of lean body mass as your pet ages, as well as help prevent a rapid regain in weight after successful weight reduction.

For your dog, the exercise program must be individually tailored just for him or her, taking into account any medical conditions or limitations, as well as the athletic capabilities of your particular pet. Some dogs will be comfortable doing activities that others are not, which often depends on the breed, health, and age of your pet. You may consider something simple like lead walking, treadmill exercise, or jogging, or some more off-leash activities, such as swimming and hydrotherapy.

As for your cat, exercise must be achieved through play sessions, often initiated with cat toys. Try using small toy fishing rods, or stuffed mice, or feathers to entice your feline friend to join you in some activity. Cats can also be encouraged to “work” for their food using feeding toys.

Managing your pet’s weight can be a challenge. Remember that the most successful strategy is a long-term commitment to a program of restricting calories and increasing exercise. Partner with your veterinarian to tailor a plan that’s right for your pet, or visit our nutrition center to learn more about a healthy diet for your dog and cat.

Related Resources

1: Banfield Pet Hospital data. Banfield Applied Research & Knowledge (BARK) team. Portland, Ore. To see more information gathered by our BARK team, visit our State of Pet Health site.