Body Condition

As many pet owners look to 2016 and resolve to improve themselves physically, the same commitment should be afforded their four-legged companions.  Excess weight can lead to a variety of health issues and negatively affect your pet’s quality-of-life.  As in people, pet obesity is at epidemic levels.

Start the year off by evaluating your pet’s body condition.  There are many resources available in the forms of pictures/charts that illustrate optimal body condition for your pet.  A quick hands-on evaluation can give you a reasonable idea of where they fit on those body condition scales.

  1. Pet your animal along the sides of the chest.  The ribs should be felt with a minimal amount of fat across them.  If the ribs cannot be felt, there is too much fat over them and evidence of over-condition.
  2. Excess fat tends to accumulate in the region of the tail head (area above base of tail). If there is any amount of fat accumulation in that area, chances are your pet is carrying excess weight.
  3. When viewed from the side and from above, the chest area should be wider and deeper when compared to the abdominal region.  If such a situation is not consistent with the shape of your pet’s torso it is an indication that the pet may be overweight.

Your veterinarian can offer more specific evaluations and give your pet a body condition score.  If deemed overweight, a therapeutic protocol will be provided involving diet and exercise.  Always consult your veterinarian before implementing any feeding or exercise regimens for your pet to ensure that such plans are in the best interest of your companion.

Some things to remember:

  1.  When measuring the amount of dry food to feed, make sure a "cup" is indeed a measuring cup (your veterinarian can supply you one).  Many times owners will say they feed “only a cup of food” but that cup more closely resembles a horse’s scoop than a measuring cup.
  2. Keep in mind that in many instances, feeding recommendations on bags may be generous.  They are ranges only and may be based on feeding trials on intact animals.  Neutered pets require much fewer calories.
  3.  When increasing the amount of exercise you pet will receive and after consulting with your veterinarian, implement such increases gradually to avoid causing undue musculoskeletal discomfort or injury.  Take into account your pet’s breed, heat tolerance, and past level of physical activity.  With increased activity, your pet’s body will be experiencing more stress and strain so consider adding a product to support healthy joints.
  4. As with people, excess snacking may increase daily caloric intake to unhealthy levels.  If you must provide treats, consider a piece of their normal kibble or healthy snacks like green beans.

Optimal body condition is a key component to a healthy lifestyle for your pet.  As many resolve with the new year to improve themselves in some facet of their life, it is a great time to make sure that we are being the best caretakers we can be to our four-legged family members.