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Here’s to a New Year…and a Healthy Pet!

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Need a New Year's resolution? How about making sure your pet is healthy by maintaining its ideal weight? It is just as important for your pet to be at an ideal weight as it is for you! Below are some questions you should consider when thinking about your pet's health.

pugs and scale

Is my pet overweight?
Dr. Ken Lambrecht, Medical Director at West Towne Veterinary Center, recommends using the 1 to 9 Purina Body Condition Score (BCS) approach to determine if your pet is overweight. This is accomplished by feeling the pet's ribs and trunk and lumbosacral area (around the hips). By feeling their ribs just behind the foreleg, you should be able to verify if your pet is overweight. It should feel the same as your fingers below your knuckles when you make a fist. If you cannot feel the ribs easily in this area, your pet may be overweight. Muscle condition should be scored at each veterinary visit as well and is especially important in older cats that tend to lose muscle mass.

 Why should my pet have regular checkups with a veterinarian?
It is important to have regular checkups with your pet to make sure it is healthy and at an ideal weight. Pets that are healthy and maintain their ideal weight just feel better. Similarly, when you're at a healthy weight, you feel better. Ideal weight pets live an average of 15 percent longer according to Dr. Lambrecht. In his opinion, "achieving and maintaining ideal weight is the best health insurance a pet owner can 'buy'."

Your veterinarian can also help you decipher how many calories your pet needs by doing a physical exam and age specific wellness testing. If your pet is more than 20 percent over ideal weight (which is considered obese), Dr. Lambrecht recommends a prescription weight loss diet and exercise. It is also important to schedule a follow up visit to make sure you and your pet are on the right track.

How often should I weigh my pet?
Your pet should be weighed monthly or even sooner if a food or diet change is made. Dr. Lambrecht says that you need to know the weight of your pet and their body condition score to determine how many calories your pet needs. Dr. Lambrecht uses medical record software that graphs a pet's weight and trends (positive and negative) that are easy to discuss with pet owners.

You can also weigh your pet right on your scale that you use at home! Just make sure that the same scale is used consistently.

 Are there any health risks for an overweight pet?
There are many health risks that come with an unhealthy weight. Dr. Lambrecht points out that there are several common diseases that can develop from being overweight. Cats can develop diabetes, arthritis and urinary infections, and dogs may suffer from arthritis, diabetes, respiratory difficulty and increased risk of anesthesia. Experts have found that pets experience negative health consequences any time they are above 15% over their ideal weight.

In order to master your New Year's resolution, know how many calories is in your pet's food. And don't forget to count the treat calories as well! Less than 10% of total calorie intake is the upper limit to prevent unbalancing the pet food's careful formulation. Dr. Lambrecht stresses "follow up and coaching is key." Just as you may need help by your doctor or nutritionist, your pet needs advice from their veterinarian!

How to master that ideal weight...
Dr. Lambrecht has had a lot of success using prescription pet foods that have high protein content (1 gram of protein per pound of ideal weight for dogs and 2 grams per pound of ideal body weight for cats). He uses pet foods that create desirable results and satisfy the pet. This is just another important reason to make sure your pet has regular visits with their veterinarian.

In order to master your New Year's resolution, know how many calories is in your pet's food. And don't forget to count the treat calories as well! Less than 10% of total calorie intake is the upper limit to prevent unbalancing the pet food's careful formulation. Dr. Lambrecht stresses "follow up and coaching is key." Just as you may need help by your doctor or nutritionist, your pet needs advice from their veterinarian!

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