ANIMAL BYTES: Pet Resolutions

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By STEPHANIE OBA, DVM
(First published in
The Rafu Shimpo on February 2, 2011)

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Happy New Year! January is the right time to make resolutions. Here are some helpful “pet resolutions.”

People want to eat healthier. Can I do this for my pet?

If you were to ask five veterinarians “What do you recommend I feed my pet?” you’ll get five different answers.

The best advice is to give your pet the best nutrition you can afford. Read all the ingredients on the packaging. If there are a lot of filler ingredients, it may be best to move on to another food in your price category. I personally like to buy food with the fewest ingredients on the list.  This way there are fewer ingredients for your pet to react to.

You should definitely look for the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) statement that the food meets the minimum standards for the life stage of your pet. Canned and dry food are both acceptable; each has its own pros and cons.

Canned food has more moisture content. This helps provide hydration in pets needing an increase in water consumption. However, it can make the stools softer. This can be good or bad depending on your pet’s output.

Dry food helps with oral health. However, if your pet doesn’t chew food well, then there is little benefit over canned food. If you decide to make a switch in food, I recommend doing so gradually over a two week period. A sudden change in diet can cause intestinal upset.

I want my pet to lose weight. How can I do this?

Losing weight for pets is exactly like it is for people. You’ll need to restrict the food intake and increase the exercise. This is a good resolution for your pet’s overall health.

Depending on what study you read, approximately 50% of the pet population is overweight or obese. Obesity leads to many health ailments, such as diabetes, cancer, ligament tears, respiratory disease and heart disease.

The first part of losing weight requires a decrease in food intake. Talk with your vet regarding your specific situation. You don’t ever want to crash diet your pet, particularly a cat. When a cat loses too much weight too fast, the result may be fatty liver syndrome, sometimes life threatening.

You may need prescription weight loss diets scientifically designed to help your pet lose weight and still get enough nutrients. Determine how much you’re feeding your pet. Is one cup an actual measuring cup or is it the “old coffee can we use for scooping dog food” sized cup? Label directions pertain to measuring cups, not others.

If you’re feeding several pets from the same bowl, separate them at feeding time to see who is eating how much. You may have to switch from putting food out all day to individual meal feedings. This will allow better control of portion sizes. Once you’ve established how much each pet is eating, you can slowly adjust their amounts. Don’t forget about those treats. Some dog biscuits can have as many calories as a large candy bar!

In order to lose weight, an increase in exercise is needed as well. Again, you should consult your vet to assess how much exercise your pet can safely handle. If you and your pet need to shed some pounds, a good walk is the best form of exercise.

Running around in the back yard or fetching a ball burns calories. It can be challenging to get cats moving. I read a study reporting that cats sleep 20 hours a day. Most cats love to play with the laser pointer. A few minutes of this daily will help. Feather toys and fake mice encourage activity. Through trial and error, you’ll be able to determine what toys make your pet move around the most.

Exercise not only burns calories, it also helps stimulate pets mentally. This makes for a happier and healthier pet as well as pet owner.

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Stephanie Oba is a contributing writer and physician for animals in  Alhambra. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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