Exercise and Weight Management: The Keys to Optimal Pet Health

beagle in kitchenPost-Thanksgiving is usually a time for looking disdainfully at the scale and thinking of the many ways we may have overindulged. But few of us consider how the holidays can also be a serious risk to our pets’ health. Like us, our pets can be susceptible to obesity as well as be at risk for pancreatitis and other health issues linked to a high-fat or imbalanced diet.

November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and it is also when we start seeing many more cases of pancreatitis and other food-related digestive issues. In light of the upcoming perils of Thanksgiving overeating and holiday treats, we thought it would be a great time to discuss ways in which you and your family can help your pet stay fit and healthy – and out of our pet emergency.

Pancreatitis: More Serious Than You Think

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas that can cause severe pain temporarily, but it can also threaten your pet’s life. Overweight and obese dogs, as well as older dogs, are more likely to develop pancreatitis. Acute forms of inflammation can develop rapidly after a pet ingests fatty, or greasy food items. This is why it is commonly associated with holidays like Thanksgiving.

Gastrointestinal upset symptoms can be difficult to detect when mild, but they can sometimes escalate to collapse and death. Most dogs typically display signs of gastrointestinal upset which might include:

  • Vomiting
  • Pain around abdomen
  • Appetite loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Difficulty breathing

Pancreatitis is a serious health threat to your pet, especially if left too long. If your pet is experiencing any of these symptoms, call our office right away.

Pet Obesity and Its Harmful Effects

While we sometimes think that our plump pooch or portly cat is adorable, pet obesity can shorten the lifespan of a pet by as much as 2.5 years and create a myriad of health problems. According to the Association of Pet Obesity Prevention, an estimated 53% of pet dogs and 58% of household cats are considered overweight or obese.

With pet obesity on the rise, the rates of diabetes and other weight-related diseases are becoming more common. Like us, you probably want your pet to be at his or her most appropriate weight, in order to keep your pet healthy, happy, and high-energy for years to come. Otherwise, our overweight pets face these common diseases and health impacts:

  • High blood pressure and heart disease
  • Respiratory disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Kidney disease

Because obesity presents so many health challenges and can severely impact your pet’s quality of life, it’s vital to maintain a balanced, nutritious diet (not just at Thanksgiving) and exercise schedule that includes daily walking and exercise. Be sure to avoid the bad habits associated with pet health risks, such as indulging him or her in unhealthy people food.

Preventing Diet- and Weight-Related Diseases

The good news is that the risks we have mentioned can be averted with simple changes and a focus on healthy nutrition and activity.  If you must give your pet people-food Thanksgiving treats, limit it to things such as white turkey meat combined with their dry food and maybe a tablespoon of gravy. Most pets enjoy unsweetened pumpkin, sweet potato or green beans.

And if your pet is already overweight, we can help you make a few simple changes to help him or her get back to a healthy weight. Those with diabetes can improve with the right choices. Of course, if your pet is at a healthy weight, prevention is the best way to avoid diabetes, heart disease, or gastrointestinal challenges. Consider putting these wellness tips into practice today!

  • Resist the “treat as a reward” temptation – offer verbal praise and snuggles instead
  • Follow your veterinarian’s advice about a life-stage appropriate, well-balanced meal plan for your pet
  • Walk, play fetch, run, and provide numerous forms of physical exercise each day (kitties included)
  • Maintain your pet’s wellness examination schedule and annual screenings
  • Avoid feeding your pet people food or table scraps (especially high fat ones!)

If you suspect your pet’s diet isn’t optimal or would like more information about how to help your pet maintain a healthy weight, please schedule a consultation.