Weight Management

We all want our pets to have a healthier, happier, longer life.

A study was done by Purina and published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medicine Association in 2002 to find out the effects of excess weight on dogs. This study included 48 Labrador Retrievers divided into two groups, that were followed during their entire lifetime. Group A received 25% more food than Group B. The results were that the dogs in Group A were 25% heavier. At the age of 8 years, radiographs were taken of all dog joints. These showed that Group A (the heavier dogs) had 75% more osteoarthritis than dogs in Group B, and the onset of osteoarthritis was 2.8 years sooner. Also, in Group A, the onset of diabetes and heart disease was 1.8 years sooner and the dogs died 1.8 years sooner than those in Group B.

To provide our pets with healthier, happier, longer lives, we have to keep them lean.

Weight gain can be the result of many factors; fortunately most of them are curable or manageable. The most common reason of weight gain is over-feeding an inactive dog. As your pet gains more weight, he/she becomes less active. As middle age approaches, lameness problems can begin to make it difficult to move around. In addition, there is a greater likelihood that your dog may develop diabetes, respiratory problems, heart disease or other diseases that can affect weight and activity levels.

Try to approximate the type of diet that a dog or a cat would eat in the wild. Their diets would consist of 60-70% protein, 15-25% fat and 5-10% carbohydrates.

Unfortunately, many commercial diets consist of a moderate amount of protein (30-40%), low amount of fat (10-20%) and high amount of carbs (40-50%) coming from grain, corn and potatoes. The carbs will be eventually stored as fat if the animal is inactive.

It’s much less expensive to build a diet that is mostly plant-based than one that is primarily meat-based, which means it is also cheaper for us to buy.  As a result, we continue to feed our pets these diets because they are inexpensive and very convenient.  In addition, they are less time-consuming and messy than feeding a raw or home-cooked diet, and don’t require special knowledge about all the vitamins and minerals necessary to provide a balanced diet.

However, there is a wide variety of excellent pet food available commercially from high-quality manufacturers.  Please ask us or your family veterinarian for suggestions.

Weight management programs generally start with a visit to your family veterinarian, who will do a thorough physical exam and bloodwork to help rule out metabolic disease. We can then work with your veterinarian to design a treatment plan specifically for your dog.

Some components are:

  • Weighing your pet, taking body measurements, assigning a body condition score and setting a goal to lose weight at the rate of 1% per week.
  • Diet modification, including modifying the amount and type of food that your pet eats, based on number of calories that your pet needs. Your family vet may prescribe a weight loss diet, with details on how much and how often to feed. Table scraps and high-calorie treats will be eliminated from the diet. These can be replaced with low-calorie treats or raw vegetables (carrots). Another alternative is ice cubes made of 99% water and 1% chicken broth.
  • Exercise and life style changes, entailing gradually increasing the time and frequency of walks and performing certain exercises.
  • Prescription medication. At this time, Slentrol is the only FDA approved weight loss medication for dogs. There are no approved weight loss medications for cats.
  • Monthly visits at your convenience for weight checks to re-evaluate the program and assess progress.

At the Rehab Center, we can provide courses of therapeutic exercises and underwater treadmill hydrotherapy that will provide exercise in a safe and controlled environment, in order to increase metabolism, strengthen muscles and improve the cardiovascular system. The underwater treadmill is the perfect environment for many dogs to begin their exercise program.

If your pet has had surgery, we don’t expect your pet to lose any weight during the first 8 weeks post-op. During this period, our rehabilitation program for your pet is designed solely to decrease pain and increase the joint range of motion. But we don’t want your pet to gain weight either, so it may be necessary to cut his/her portion size by 25% to compensate for lack of activity during confinement. It is important to keep an adequate intake of protein to speed the healing process, so be sure to feed a high-quality diet.