Nutrition is an important part of your pet’s health. And as a part of their annual health check, your veterinarian will often ask, “So what is Fluffy eating at home?” This is usually followed by, “and how much is he eating?”
Most of the time, the main answer clients give us starts with, “Oh, the purple bag from the pet store!” or, even more often, “My partner usually buys it, so I’m not sure.” Coming to your pet’s annual exam prepared with this information helps us make more informed decisions when it comes to what they are eating – especially when we start talking about body condition and weight.
Body condition and weight are not entirely co-related, as our pets come in many different shapes and sizes – what might be a 3 out of 5 for one dog, may be a 4 out of 5 on another – but, weight gain is the second most common problem discussed by veterinarians in annual exams. This can be caused by several factors.
The number one reason for weight gain in pets is generalized over feeding by their humans. This doesn’t necessarily mean over feeding of their regular diet, but more-so the “extras” that may be given throughout the day – treats, table scraps, or even chews. The calories in these extra morsels count much more than pet owners tend to realize. A pet’s main diet (be it kibble or canned food) is designed to provide all their caloric needs for the day. The next error that pet parents tend to make is not entirely measuring out the food being given; either doing a “heaping” 1 cup or using some other measuring device – like a drinking glass or a coffee mug, that, in their mind, is “1 cup”. Pet parents can have very different ideas about how much their pets tend to eat!
If our pet parents are feeding the correct amount, but Fluffy is still a little on the heavy side, they may be lacking the exercise needed to stay trim. More walks & playtime are key, but not always possible. Suggesting companies in your area that offer walking services is a great tool for our clients to utilize if they have mobility concerns themselves. For our feline friends, combining exercise with their diet is another easy way for pet parents to be interactive with their pet’s weight loss – exercise balls that allow our clients to put their cats food into, as well as interactive mice where you can put food inside them so the cat can “hunt” for.
And lastly, for our friends that just can’t lose weight no matter what the client does, there is usually a medical reason. This means bloodwork and can include a thyroid test – as a slacking thyroid in our canines can result in weight gain and an inability to lose.
It is a team effort between the veterinary team & the client to keep their pets happy & healthy; nutrition is just one small part of what we can offer to make sure our clients are staying informed and active in their pet’s veterinary care.
Written by Sarah Boundy.