By Amna Plummer, DVM
Beach season is right around the corner, and while Houstonians are thinking of eating healthier and hitting the gym for bathing suit season, they may also want to think about their pets’ eating and fitness habits. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 44 percent of dogs and 57 percent of cats are estimated to be overweight or obese. Obesity is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in dogs and cats and can lead to a number of health risks in pets including osteoarthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and respiratory disease.
Owners often don’t even realize that their pets are overweight. A study by Pfizer found that while veterinarians determined 47 percent of their canine clients to be overweight, only 17 percent of dog owners believe that their dogs fit that description.
It’s important to match your pet to your lifestyle. If you lead a very active, outdoor lifestyle, make sure that your pet can keep up. Some breeds are more prone to overheating in the summer time so be careful with summer activity.
Below are some tips to help your pet get healthy and fit for the summer time:
• You check the labels on your food products and the same holds true for pet food products. Check the nutritional facts on the food and treats that you feed your pets. Make sure that the food does not contain a lot of fillers, preservatives and useless ingredients.
• Keep your pet on a regular feeding schedule with minimal treats, If you have multiple pets feed them separately.
• It’s important to have your veterinarian test your pet’s blood at least once a year to detect any endocrine or metabolic abnormalities that could affect your pet’s weight.
• Pets need a comprehensive physical exam from a veterinarian on a yearly basis. Your vet can determine whether your pet has any problems that could cause complications with exercise and weight loss such as musculoskeletal or dental problems that may affect their diet and fitness.
• Be sure that your pet is receiving any necessary vitamins or dietary supplements that it may need. For instance, many older pets require supplements to ease their arthritis.
•Just like humans, pets need cardiovascular activity to keep their hearts healthy. Make sure that your pet raises their heart rate for 20 minutes at least three times a week.
• One great way for pets to stay active is to play with other pets, whether it’s at doggy day care, the park, pooch parties or at home.