Pet Vet: Obesity is a huge problem in our four-legged friends

December 7, 2015

Kyle from Modesto writes in to express some frustration he is having trying to get some weight off his dog, AJ. AJ is an 8-year-old Basset hound who has become quite overweight. Kyle had AJ neutered about 18 months ago and it seems AJ has gotten heavier ever since. Even with the use of a "lite" formula diet, AJ has continued to put on weight and Kyle is concerned.

Iíd like to commend Kyle for his concern over AJís weight. Indeed obesity, as we have discussed before, is a huge problem in our companions, one, which can have very serious health consequences. I would also like to address an issue brought up by Kyle concerning neutering and weight gain.

Neutering, the term given for the sexual altering of a male or female animal, itself does not cause weight gain and obesity. This misconception is common and its source is quite logical. When a companion is neutered, their metabolic rate will gradually drop, in some as much as 25 percent over time. With this drop in metabolic rate, there is a corresponding drop in the amount of food necessary to maintain body weight and condition. Unfortunately this is not always taken into consideration and these companions continue to be fed the same amount of food after neutering as before. This excessive caloric intake leads then to weight gain and oftentimes obesity.

To alleviate this potential health problem, I advise caretakers begin to reduce the amount of food they give their companions after neutering. I shoot for a 25 percent decrease in the volume of food fed over two to three weeks. Periodic weight checks can help tailor the weight loss.

AJ is already obese and he needs to drop some pounds. Kyle reports he has tried "lite" formula foods without results, which I must say, is a common scenario. "Lite" diets do indeed contain fewer calories per unit volume when compared to the regular formula of the same food, however the difference is often not enough.

When we think about it, it is really quite simple to initiate weight loss in our companions. Simply reducing the amount of any diet fed below the daily requirement to maintain the current body weight will, over time lead to weight loss. The problem with this method is the compliance of the caretaker and the insistence from the companion that he or she is starving.

A better method for producing consistent weight loss involves the use of a prescription diet formulation designed to provide your companion with that feeling of fullness after eating without providing excess calories at the same time. Your veterinarian, after establishing that your companion has no underlying problems that may be causing obesity, can establish an ideal body weight and help you choose a product.

The length of time needed to reach the ideal body weight targeted by your veterinarian will vary primarily based on how much weight needs to be lost, but also on each individualís metabolism. As is the case in people, each companion is unique in his metabolism and some require more calories than others to maintain the same body weight. Start with a specific amount of food as established at the beginning of a weight loss program and then weigh your companion on a monthly basis and adjust accordingly. If the weight loss is too rapid, increase the food volume and if the weight loss is too slow, reduce the amount. These adjustments will be determined by your veterinarian and over time will assure successful weight loss.

Once your companion reaches the targeted body weight, a maintenance diet and amount can be established assuring a healthy body weight for your companionís long and happy life.



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