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The Daily Vet by petMD

The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.

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Do you have a corpulent canine or flabby feline?  Can you determine if your pet is overweight or obese? What can be done to safely promote weight loss and improved health? These are all questions pet owners face in the "Battle of the Bulge: Companion Animal Edition."

Obesity is the number one nutritional disease affecting our pets. As Americans have packed on the pounds, so have the canine and feline companions with whom we share our homes and, occasionally, our meals. Obesity is also the number one disease I diagnose in dogs and cats in my clinical practice (with periodontal disease being the second).

Having grown up as an overweight child, and then making a concerted effort to improve my health and fitness in my teenage years and into adulthood, I am passionate about promoting anti-obesity awareness for pets.

Pet owners must recognize the negative holistic health implications of obesity. As an optimally functioning body relies on the highly operating sum of its parts, nearly all organ systems suffer under the stress of carrying excess weight. Life threatening and potentially irreversible health diseases affect the following systems:

  • Metabolic: The functional synergy between the kidneys, liver, pancreas, thyroid and adrenal glands is disrupted by obesity.
  • Cardiovascular and Pulmonary: The heart, blood vessels and lungs are forced to inefficiently function at an elevated capacity when providing oxygen rich blood to excessive body tissue.
  • Immune: Obesity and lack of activity cause stagnation in the lymphatic system, which reduces fluid drainage and the ability for white blood cells to manage infection.
  • Musculoskeletal and Nervous: Arthritis (joint inflammation), degenerative joint disease (DJD, the sequela of chronic arthritis), and improper nerve conduction all occur from supporting excess weight.
  • Dermatologic: Portly pets are less capable of grooming themselves and more prone to skin fold dermatitis (inflammation) and infection (bacteria and yeast).
  • Gastrointestinal: Inactivity delays peristalsis (involuntary contraction of the intestines), leading to indigestion and constipation.

What are the clinical signs that your pet may be overweight or obese? I use each patient’s body weight as a landmark, but focus on their Body Condition Score (BCS). The BCS scale ranges from one to nine, with one and nine being the respective extremes of thin and thick. The ideal BCS is five. Pets having a BCS over five, yet less than seven, are considered overweight. A BCS greater than seven classifies a pet as obese.

Your pet is overweight or obese if any (or all) of the following physical indicators are present:

  • Excess fat covering the ribs: A thick layer of fat inhibits easy palpation of the ribs.
  • Lack of waistline: When looking down on your pet from above, there is a lack of visible narrowing just behind the last (13th) rib.
  • Pendulous abdominal fat: Fatty tissue dangles from the underside of your pet’s abdomen, which may even swing while walking or running.

Now that you have determined that your pet needs to lose weight, what can you do?

Schedule an examination with your pet’s veterinarian

As certain disease conditions (arthritis, hypothyroidism, other) can contribute to your pet’s overweight status, your veterinarian should perform an examination and diagnostics (laboratory testing, X-rays, etc.) to look for underlying causes. Your vet can also determine if your pet is healthy enough to begin an exercise program.

Employ calorie restriction and portion control

Pet owners often provide food in excess of the daily caloric requirement for weight maintenance or loss. In a 2002 study, scientists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine reported that dogs fed a calorie restricted diet lived nearly two years longer than dogs consuming additional calories. The fourteen-year-long study also proved that these dogs were less likely to develop painful osteoarthritis.

Feed your pet at the lower end of the manufacturer’s suggested range per body weight and always use a metric measuring cup to determine the proper portion.

Reduce dry food and increase whole foods

Your pet’s food provides the building blocks of body tissue and is a vital component of maintaining normally functioning body systems. Fresh, moist proteins, carbohydrates, and fat sources are more energetically useful to your pet than the ingredients found in dehydrated and denatured dry foods.

Dilute your pet’s calories by adding fiber, moisture, and antioxidant rich vegetables. Reduce your pet’s commercial food by 25-33 percent and replace the volume with steamed and pureed (or finely chopped) vegetables. Ideally, choose locally grown and organic food sources such as carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, and mushrooms.

Increase feeding frequency

Provide a meal for your pet at least every 12 hours. More frequent feeding reduces bingeing and promotes improved digestion, slower eating, less aerophagia (swallowing of air), and more consistent metabolism.

Commit to Daily Exercise

Schedule time for exercise on a daily basis and set sustainable weight loss goals for your pet.

Consistent activity benefits both you and your pet(s). The PPET (People and Pets Exercising Together) Study showed that owners who regularly exercised with their dogs were better able to stick with their workout plan than dog-less participants.

When starting out, choose simple workouts like briskly walking around your neighborhood, then increase the intensity and duration as Fido’s fitness progresses.

Cats can exercise in the comfort of your own home by chasing a laser pointer or feather toy. Additionally, feeding from an elevated surface or placing food inside a feline-friendly toy provides both behavioral and physical stimulation.

*

There is no singular correct food, feeding system, or exercise program that can be employed over your pet’s lifetime. As your pet ages or is afflicted by illness, its dietary and physical activity needs will change. Please use common sense and the guidance of a veterinarian (one who recommends whole food nutrients) in creating a feeding and fitness program for your pet.

Dr. Patrick Mahaney

Image: Grandpa / via Shutterstock

Comments  33

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  • True, But...
    10/11/2011 07:28am

    While I agree with everything you've said, I have to wonder about the emotional ramifications of restricting food.

    My overweight kitties were on, at one time, on the streets and trying to stay alive. I can't imagine how frightening it might be to be hungry again. (And we all know that we're hungry when dieting.)

  • 10/11/2011 10:04am

    Thank you for your comments. Great point regarding feeding former feral/street/shelter cats.
    Food restriction does not equal starvation. Cat owners can provide more frequent, smaller feedings that meet but don't exceed a cat's daily caloric demands.
    The physiologic toll that obesity takes on a cats body definitely supersedes any emotional distress from the perceived lack of food (which is why feeding more frequently works).
    Dr PM
    www.patrickmahaney.com
    Twitter @PatrickMahaney

  • 10/12/2011 07:09am

    I'd love to give multiple, small meals, but what do you suggest when I'm away from home 13 to 14 hours a day at work? A timed feeder isn't really an option as one can't know which kitty will get to it first.

  • 10/12/2011 10:50pm

    If you are away from home for 14 hours a day, do you not have a dogwalker or petsitter coming in at least once during that time?

  • 10/12/2011 10:57pm

    I have cats, not dogs.

    If I ever went away overnight (I don't), I would get a sitter. However, there are 11 boxes for 5 kitties, the radio is on, there are 4 kitty buffets. Being gone from 6 AM to 7 PM (ish) doesn't seem to be a problem.

    And if I have someone on twice-a-day meds, I alter my schedule and try very hard to do meds every 12 hours.

  • 10/13/2011 01:51am

    Having so many animals and being away from home is certainly a challenge.
    Perhaps you can have a trusted friend or family come to the home to attend to the cat's mid-day feeding.
    Good luck.
    Dr PM

  • Vets are shy with obesity
    10/11/2011 10:33am

    Dr. PM

    Great article. The only thing I would add is to encourage folks that if they are going to go to their vet they should encourage the vet to talk about obesity and let them know it is OK to say their dog is fat.

    Maybe it is a local phenomenon but vets in our area are so reluctant to talk about weight and obesity because of the potential reaction from the client that they do not discuss it. Here is the full story: http://www.breedfreak.com/2011/09/obese_dog/

    Matt



  • 10/12/2011 02:34pm

    Matt,
    Thank you for your comments.
    I read your blog (and will comment on the site...as I appreciate your comments on petMD).
    I agree that veterinarians need to be more willing to diagnose obesity, inform owners as to the health consequences, and help determine a system that promotes weight loss (besides the use of prescription diets).
    Dr PM
    www.patrickmahaney.com
    Twitter @PatrickMahaney

  • Well this is awkward...
    10/12/2011 11:06pm

    Don't shoot the messenger!

    I actually really enjoy your input in many other dog forums in which I've encountered you.

    However, I think you may have misunderstood your audience here, as this article is fairly incomprehensible to the average pet owner who has no training in or familiarity with medical terminology. You aren't talking to other vets; you're talking to the average pet owner. ;)

    I actually agree with you that pet obsesity is a huge problem, but I have to say that I did not find this article compelling.

    Even for those of us who understand the terminology, threatening me with this result: "Metabolic: The functional synergy between the kidneys, liver, pancreas, thyroid and adrenal glands is disrupted by obesity" in no way tells me how or why such a disruption is a scary thing for my pet's health. How am I, as the pet owner, motivated to stop overfeeding Fido when you haven't explained the ultimate result of my mismanagement? If I even understood that you said I was mismanaging Fido?

    Again, please don't shoot the messenger, as I'm actually on your side here. I've really enjoyed your advice in other venues and expected you'd bring the same sort of compelling and accessible advice to this blog. Still hope that you will!


  • 10/13/2011 02:00am

    Thank you for your comments. I appreciate your perspective.
    To further expand on the metabolic issue, I will give a basic example.
    Feline obesity causes type II diabetes, where the pancreas is capable of producing insulin but cannot do so in the appropriate amounts. Overconsumption of calories, most commonly from dry cat foods, is the primary culprit.
    So, cat owners give insulin injections and strive to promote weight loss as a means of managing diabetes.
    In this case, the synergy between the otherwise normally functioning pancreas has been disrupted by obesity.
    To expand up on this, the excess weight also puts stress on the kidneys and liver, which cannot fulfill their roles as effectively.
    I expect my audience at petMD to have some variety, yet will likely be interested in and have the intellectual capacity to read helpful information about how to manage their pet's wellness and illness. From that perspective, I write my articles.
    Based on your comments, you are obviously within the range of reader that I target with my writing, so I hope we can continue this conversation on subsequent articles.
    Thank you,
    Dr PM
    www.patrickmahaney.com
    Twitter @PatrickMahaney (and @CelebrityPetNws...no "e" in News)

  • 10/13/2011 09:53pm

    Thanks for expanding on your points! I did know where you were going, but I was a bit concerned that not everyone would and might not have realized how dangerous it can be to allow a pet to carry excess weight.

    You've really been very gracious about my nitpicking. ;)

    And as I've said, when I've previously encountered you in various pet forums, you've always been helpful, clear, accessible and caring.

  • Great Advice
    10/13/2011 09:20pm

    I think you've offered some great advice, Dr Patrick.

    In my practice, the hardest part is often getting a pet owner to understand that their pet truly is overweight. Many honestly believe that not being able to feel their pet's ribs is normal and are surprised to hear that their pet is overweight. Is that true for you too?

    I agree also that it's important for veterinarians to talk to owners about their pet's weight issues. It certainly can be a delicate subject but it's an important one.

  • 10/13/2011 09:50pm

    I think it is hard to get owners to understand that a pet is overweight. As a petsitter, I have occasionally attempted to broach this topic and it has not goen well. More often, a client demands thatI give my opinion on a pet's weight upon return from a vet visit informing them that the pet needs to lose weight. ;) They generally are willing to concede the pet might be a bit heavy, but are genuinely shocked at how overweight their vet believes the pet to be.

    I always refer them to the Purina Body Condition Score chart (which I really thought might have been linked in this article-it's readily available online) and explain how to use it at home to get a sense of whether their pet's weight is appropriate. While it does take some time for the owners to accept just how much weight a pet may need to lose, I've been fortunate that most clients did get the pets back down where they ought to be. Perhaps some kudos from me every week or two helped, as I do see the pets and owners more frequently than do the vets? It's difficult for most of these owners to change habits, as so many find treats to be equal to love. But I think some regular support and congratulations goes a long way. Perhaps vets should check in with clients who have obese pets between visits and see how they're getting along? Not one of these clients called their vets between visits, but they did frequently solicit my opinion. Perhaps vets are missing an opportunity here in supporting clients with overweight animals?

  • 10/13/2011 10:06pm

    Good point about the Purina body score condition charts. I use them in my office to show pet owners what to look for all the time. They're very valuable.

    You made a good point also about checking in with pet owners and offering encouragement. I do think that helps. We usually encourage owners to bring their pets in once a month for a weight check. Seeing results (i.e. the pet actually losing weight from month to month) is usually very encouraging. Occasionally, we see a pet who has gained instead of losing and then we can talk further with pet owners about what's going right, what's going wrong and help figure out where the problem is.

  • 10/13/2011 10:36pm

    If it's any help, from my non-medical end, the problemstems from two things. First, not actually measuring feedings. Many owners "eyeball" it or "free-feed" and that leads to huge overfeedings when the owner thinks the same amount is offered each day.

    But there really is a huge emotional component to this. Many owners feel that treating or "sharing" their own meals is an important bonding experience, and they are truly pained when they have to cut back. And this is where more regular contact really can help an owner make the transition to more healthy behaviors. Sometimes I suggest treating with veggies-carrots, green beans, etc., and sometimes, as I know their dogs pretty well and what those dogs really enjoy, I can suggest games, play, walks, training, etc, that are just as rewarding to the dog as the treats were. Making that leap from treating to really engaging the dog is tough for some owners, and where they need the support.

    But it's always great to see an owner tell me that "insert name here" suddenly is much more playful and energetic as the weight comes off. It almost always happens, and then the owners really feel great! The owners just aren't that focused on the numbers. They want to believe that they have created a happy dog. They just have to learn that the dog can be happy in many ways that have little or nothing to do with food.;)It's a harder transition than you'd think for many people.

    So yes, a call from the vet to see how the owner is handling the reduction in rations really would go a long way. Odds are, the owner is much more upset than the pet. The owners really don't seem to be that focused on weight--they want to see a happy pet and a strong bond. If you can help them make the transition, support them emotionally as they wean off overfeeding, it would be a huge help to them.

  • 10/15/2011 04:49pm

    Thank you for your comments.
    Great suggestion regarding follow up communication from the vet to the client re: weight loss, diet changes, etc.
    I am in constant communication with my clients via email and typically see my patients on an every 7-30 day basis, so we closely monitor the ins/outs of lifestyle modifications.
    I love seeing my patients feeling more energetic and having a healthier quality of life as the weight comes off!
    Dr PM
    www.patrickmahaney.com
    Twitter: @PatrickMahaney

  • veggies cause gas
    10/14/2011 02:04pm

    I fed my dog Rock veggies to help fill him up when I cut back on his kibble. This was at the suggestion of my vet. However he developed a gas pattern. Then he bloated. I was told by the vets that operated on him to be careful of foods (like veggies) if he sees he is getting to gassy.

    I do use a product called missing link which has Glucosamine HCl and omega 3 and 6 and fibre. (There are some plant derivatives in the product so I am now careful about his veggie intake.)

    I also use a digestive enzyme that helps him absorb the nutrients he takes in. I use the enzyme because I do feed processed food. I do not know enough to feed raw to make sure it is balanced. There is a veterinarian run website that will create a balanced raw diet for your dog (at least I think it is a raw diet) but I am still not too sure about it. I know a breeder that feeds raw and there are some good things but also female dogs on a raw fed diet have trouble whelping.

    I guess the important thing to note is there are diets out there for all types of owners and life styles.

  • 10/14/2011 02:12pm

    Opps I forgot to add that I changed to feeding 3 smaller meals a day. This really helps ( please anyone with a pet that wants to eat all the time try it, it works).
    It cut down on the dogs cravings and help me to feed a little less without the doogs feeling hungry.

    If I had more time at home ( and not work) I would feed four meals a day. Weight lifters use this method when they want to be cut and it really helps them stay on their diet without so many cravings. If it can work for them it can work for a pet too.

  • 10/15/2011 04:53pm

    Thank you for your comments.
    Glad to hear that you have found the combination of foods, supplements, etc that are working for Rock.
    There is never one cause for bloat (GDV), as it comes down to genetics, food, digestion, activity, pace of eating, age, etc.
    In my clinical practice, I have seen GDV most commonly in large breed dogs (with deep chest and narrow waist) that are adult to geriatric and eat dry food rapidly.
    So, slowing down feedings (Brake-Fast bowl, large/nonconsumable rock in a traditional bowl, etc), providing moist whole food in the 2-4 times per day as you are, and other means can help.
    I hope that you are Rock are well!
    Please correspond with me further on my subsequent The Daily Vet posts and Twitter (@PatrickMahaney). Visit me on www.patrickmahaney.com
    Dr PM

  • 10/17/2011 02:55pm

    Thank you, however I meant this as a cautionary tale when it comes to feeding a dog vegetables. An increase in gas or a gas build up is what happened to us.

    So as an addendum if feeding veggies cause too much gas I was explaining that there are wonderful supplements out there that close the gap in what is missing in processed foods and also digestion aids that increase nutrient absorption.

    I meant it more as an example of what can be done in lieu of vegetables.

  • 10/17/2011 07:23pm

    To what supplements are you referring?
    I often suggest Standard Process supplements to my clients, as they are whole food based and have many animal based and phytonutrients that are beneficial for a variety of life stages and disease processes.
    Dr PM

  • my idea free to you
    10/19/2011 02:32pm

    If you want to make some real money: open up a diet clinic for pets. Once you get the workflow down pat, Sell franchise all across the country. Holistic, raw and premium pet foods have seen big increases and still there is little knowledge in nutrition for pets.I think diet clinics and nutrition and weight loss programs for pets would do well.Under an umbrella organization to tie it all in.

    Once a dog or cat has been evaluated I would suggest seeing clients as a group with weigh-ins, group support and even a pet food patterned and named after the club itself. This would make it affordable for the average person and you would still make money off of the clinic.

    Just like weight watchers does with their food programs.

  • 10/19/2011 06:55pm

    Thank you for your comments.
    Interesting and great idea regarding pet weight loss facilities.
    In order to best oversee this process, such weight loss procedures should be offered/run by veterinarians, veterinary physical therapists, etc.
    I feel as though this avenue is something that veterinary physical therapy facilities could readily explore. PT facilities often have water/land treadmills, pools, space for acupuncture/massage.
    What should we call this concept? Canine Curves?
    Thank you,
    Dr PM
    www.patrickmahaney.com
    Twitter @PatrickMahaney

  • 10/20/2011 09:58am

    Yes that is true but I was thinking more along the lines that no one has marketed pet weight loss to the human clients. In other words there is no total package.

    A client sees the vet. The vet goes into the spiel about the pet needing to loose weight.OK now clients eyes glaze over and they try feeding some vegetables and cutting down the kibble? Success? I think not.

    Now what if that same vet could offer a total diet package? Peer support, food, tips, tricks, games, toys etc?

    So once the client agrees to the diet the pets specs are sent in to the company. The company then designs a diet for that pet using their own dog food. That company can also offer supplements too.
    The food itself comes with calorie content, portion control and flash cards that offer exercise tips, motivational sayings, nutritional tips, snack ideas, training tips etc.

    Even a goal could be set for weight loss, the first month one pound, second month three pounds etc.

    Now once a month there would be a meeting. The clients come with their pets and talk about the struggles and triumphs they have had. The clients are getting peer support (which is different than some DR talking to them) It could even be run a vet tech. The tech could read from an assigned topic and then a discussion.

    At the meeting you could offer toys, puzzles that are designed to stimulate physically and mentally. You could offer videos on massage, offer ides for teaching the pet to use a treadmill, swimming games, running etc.
    I have only given this a little thought but I am certain that there is a market for a weight loss program that could be run just like it is on people and I think the results would be better and it would be more understandable and enjoyable for people to apply to their pets.

    What about an exercise program the targets both the owner and pet together and weigh in for both pet and owner? I am sure there must be lots of ideas and features that can be added.

  • 10/20/2011 10:12am

    what about jazzercise classes for both people and pets together? see easy its easy to keep adding features.

  • 10/21/2011 11:19pm

    Jazzercise, pet-people yoga (Doga, Coga, etc), boot camp, etc are all options.
    I am not a fan of people and pet weight loss "gimmick" plans. The issue must be taken seriously by both people and pets for long term goals to be achieved.
    Dr PM

  • 10/22/2011 02:05pm

    not sure why you see this as not serious so I have to disagree. Making excersize fun and social for pets and owners is a good thing.

  • 10/21/2011 11:17pm

    Such great business ideas. You have created quite the structure to enact a plan that would benefit so many pets all over the country.
    Are you seeking to set this plan into play?
    There is such a need for a means for pets to safely lose weight during any life stage.
    I am not currently seeking to open a facility, but your suggestions could be a great asset to a veterinarian or like minded team of veterinary practitioners who are.
    Dr PM

  • 10/22/2011 02:03pm

    No I have no knowledge of pet nutrition etc. Someone needs to say the way pet diets are presented are just not working if so many pets are overweight. Just using common sense here. There are many more factors at play than just feeding pets too much. At the moment there is no forum for people to give feedback to each other when trying to help a pet loose weight. There is a relationship going on between pet and owner, some people might see induldging a pet as a way of giving things they never had, or it may be guilt or it may be misplaced transference of many things. Many of us work and simply do not have the time to focus an approach to understanding our feelings, our pets welfare, portion control games, excersize programs or new ideas etc. These can be somewhat new concepts. A program that has planned to address all these things (portion control, group discussions, training, tips, nutritional topics at meetings and so on) all would ensure to not only help the pet loose weight but would teach owners and even possibly teach owners how sometimes too much leeway is not the best of ideasand even perhaps help them to better understand their relationship with pets. It is all good.

  • 10/22/2011 03:51pm

    In other words a holistic approach. Pets can't survive without owners so both need ( person and dog)make up the whole and in cases of obesity both owner and dog need to be included. Surgery or medication can be given or done by the vet, diet and obesity can involve a much more emotional aspect needing that holistic approach ( whole).

    Well we have beat this to death so I guess nuff said eh?

  • 10/22/2011 04:40pm

    Absolutely.
    Such a program would be splendid.
    As I offer personalized/individualized veterinary care, I take this approach with my clients.
    If an owner is aware of the problem and dedicated to the cause of healthful weight reduction and lifestyle change for their pet, having a close relationship with a veterinarian who is also like minded can provide positive long term results.
    Dr PM

  • Fat content in can food?
    11/02/2011 12:34pm

    Wow a lot of information to process. I missed this original posting, but in reading one today about a vegetarian diet for dogs and cats, I saw the link to this on the sidebar and felt the two were interrelated and important.

    First, obesity in pets is escalating alongside that of American residents. It's a problem. Admittedly, one of my cats is overweight but that's my fault for having too many cats (not intentionally--two of them are fosters). Hence I agree it's not wise to have more than 4-5 cats for a number of reasons. But that is the world of rescuing strays... JW prefers dry to moist and while I rather portion control, two other cats are hypoglycemic so I leave bowl of dry food all day for them to nibble on. I never know when I can come home for lunch and the days I have missed there was saliva and other vomit awaiting me. Binging is definitely a problem. Sigh. I know there's a solution, am working on it. Obesity in pets needs to be brought to forefront of pet issues via newsreports, etc.

    Second, I have to agree with other comments. Owners don't like to hear their pets are overweight or obese. It's hard to accept. In my sisters case with her Yorkie JD, for years the vet said he was overweight (which he clearly was) and needed to lose weight. Being overweight/obese herself, she could not come to terms with it. She never walked the dogs and only when my mother and I would visit did we take JD and Lolita for walks which he went crazy for. But poor JD huffed and puffed and struggled. His walks were becoming shorter and shorter. He died young due to some tumor which my sister swears was the reason for his being overweight that no vet uncovered.

    Third, through my own experience I learned that dogs can not eat certain vegetables or can not digest them. Interestingly my dog can not digest same veggies as I do. Hence my body lacks certain digestive enzymes. So learned not to give my dog tiny bits of chopped onion or broccoli or beans...

    What I learned today (Nov 2, 2011) from Dr. Justine Lee's post, is that cats should not eat vegetables or a vegetarian diet.

    Which leads me to a burning question I've had for some time: in reading the ingredients of canned food, it indicates minimum amount of fat. Why can't it state exact amount of nutrients and fat just like human food? I want to feed my cats moist food which I understand is better (and am willing to pay premium price for premium food) than pure carbs from dry food but still wonder which are the best brands of canned food for cats. (I found one for my dog).
    Can anyone recommend?

    Thanks.

  • 11/04/2011 03:41pm

    Thank you for your well thought out and intentioned comments.
    Regarding obesity, pet owners need to realize that as a direct result of combination of their action (overfeeding) or lack of action (underexercise), their pet suffers from or will be predisposed to a variety of health conditions. The topic of weight loss must be approached with tact and support. Vets that choose to not say anything to their overweight clients about their overweight pets are really doing their patients a disservice.
    Regarding pet food labeling, there are different standards that for people. Pet foods are not required to put information about specific/established standards for all nutrients as human foods are. In part, pet foods include nutrients that are deemed unfit for human consumption (having less bioavailable nutrients such as feet, feathers, fur, skin, beaks, etc that make up protein, etc). Such is why I recommend whole food feeding over processed dry OR canned foods. Yet, reading a pet food label to see if whole meat, vegetables, and grains are included can lend some confidence that you are feeding your pet a food closer to the way nature intended.
    Here is a FDA website link that strives to make clear the information listed on pet food labels:
    http://www.fda.gov/animalveterinary/resourcesforyou/ucm047113.htm
    Dr PM

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