Preventing Holiday Weight Gain

Lucy, the dog, saw a veterinary neurologist in Grand Rapids, MichiganIf you are from New England, you know it can be hard to not gain weight during the long winter. Between being snowed in, freezing temperatures and all the holiday culinary delights, many exercise and diet plans go out the window.

Our furry friends are not immune to this phenomenon. Getting pets out to exercise can be extremely difficult, especially when 20-foot snowdrifts stand in your way. And, it’s almost impossible to resist sneaking some of the turkey dinner to our four-legged companions.

Just like in humans though, cats and dogs suffer when they pack on pounds. Excess weight can cause a number of issues, many of which we are familiar with, because they are the same issues people deal with when they are overweight. Below are some of the most common ailments associated with extra weight in pets.

Diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes) is a common complication of an animal being overweight. Diagnosing and treating diabetes can be costly, as well as a big commitment for a pet parent. Having to monitor blood sugar, give insulin injections and go to multiple vet visits are all reasons to try and keep your pet from developing diabetes. Not to mention, diabetes can cause multiple health complications including urinary tract infections, and hypoglycemia, which can be fatal.

Since the body has to work harder when there are more pounds to carry, all the major organs including the heart, lungs and liver are at increased risk for fatigue. That can lead to congestive heart failure, breathing issues, decreased stamina and decreased function.

Joint, ligament and bone issues including osteoarthritis are also prevalent in obese pets. Ligaments are subjected to greater tension from extra pounds, which can cause tears requiring surgery. Osteoarthritis (OA) can be painful and debilitating for some pets. OA treatment can also be a big commitment for pet parents, both personally and financially, involving pain relievers, specific joint diets, supplements, a decrease in caloric intake and more exercise for the pet.

Keeping your pet a healthy weight can feel like a daunting task. It is hard to resist those puppy dog eyes or a cute meow, but try and make it fun and find other ways to reward your pet besides food. Throw a ball when your dog obeys a command. Spend time with your kitty by dragging a toy along the floor. Or, if you must give treats, give ones low in calories. Usually, just some extra love and attention is all our pets really want from us.

Pets are not only healthier, but happier when they don’t have to carry around those extra pounds. Your pooch or kitty will have more energy, less pain, greater quality of life and maybe even a longer life, when he is a healthy weight. And that should be reason enough for any pet lover to put down the treats and give an adoring pat on the head instead.