Ensure your pet eats healthy and exercises regularly
Published in the October 30, 2013 issue of Morgan Hill Life
Dr. Jeanne Haggerty-Arcay
With all the hustle and bustle that comes with the holidays, it is easy for pets to gain weight. The days are shorter, junk food is out and it’s tempting to skip the walk and sit down for a movie with popcorn. The weight your pet gains can be difficult to shed.
Why is your dog’s weight so important? Canine obesity is on the rise and the majority of dogs we see are overweight, if not obese. Obesity can lead to multiple health problems, including arthritis and diabetes. It’s easy to overfeed your dog, especially during the holidays when they may be begging for a piece of turkey or a cookie. One ounce of cheddar cheese for a 20-pound dog is equivalent to a human eating two and a half hamburgers.
How do you know if your dog is overweight? You should be able to feel your dog’s ribs and distinguish one rib from the next without seeing them. Your dog should have a visible waistline. As he or she gains weight, the space between the ribs fills with fat. Then a fat layer develops over the ribs. Your veterinarian can assess your dog’s weight and let you know if he or she needs to lose weight.
How much food should you be feeding daily? All pet foods have feeding instructions on the container. That chart will give you guidelines on how much to feed for your pet’s weight. If your pet is overweight, feed for their ideal weight, not their actual weight. Remember that the charts are daily recommendations. If you feed twice daily, give half at each feeding. Here are tips on maintaining your dog’s weight:
• Refrain from feeding your pet human food. If you feel obligated to share, choose low-fat, low-calorie foods such as chicken or turkey (skinless, boneless, not fried), veggies (carrots, zucchini, green beans), air popped popcorn or rice cakes.
• Fit exercise into your schedule. It will benefit both you and your dog to go for a walk, go to the park or play ball.
• Feed only the recommended amount of food. If you add in extra snacks/treats, decrease their normal food accordingly.
• Weigh your dog. Most veterinary offices will allow you to come in and weigh your pet. Have your veterinary office record the weight in your pet’s file for future reference.
• If you think your dog continues to gain weight or is not able to lose despite appropriate feeding/exercise, contact your veterinarian, who can review your feeding/exercise practices and make recommendations.
Dr. Jeanne Haggerty-Arcay earned her undergraduate degrees in Biology, Biochemistry and Spanish from the College of Notre Dame in Belmont. She graduated from U.C. Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 2002. Raised in the Bay Area, she returned to continue practicing both large and small animal medicine. She enjoys spending time with her husband and three young children. She also enjoys running, cycling and plans to return to her equestrian pastime in the near future.
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