Here at St. Francis Veterinary Clinic, we are very excited to offer nutritional counseling for pet owners in Conway, AR and the surrounding communities.

Nutrition is so important for pets throughout their lives. As animals age, their nutritional needs change. There are puppy, adult, and senior diets to accommodate pet’s changing needs. Then there are also diets made to help pets with certain diseases and conditions. It is important to discuss your pet’s diets with our staff every time you visit our hospital.

A very common problem in pets that needs to be addressed is obesity. Many owners overfeed their pets when they beg. They also like to show their pets their love by feeding them treats. However, obesity can be a real problem.

Obesity takes an immense toll on a pet’s body; overweight animals are more likely to experience skin problems, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, and even certain cancers. Obesity causes pets to be more susceptible to infection, torn knee ligaments, and spinal disc issues. For overweight pets, exercise is difficult, fatigue is common, and blood pressure is usually high. This combination causes the heart to work much harder than the heart of a healthier pet, resulting in heart disease, and eventually, congestive heart failure.

An obese pet is also considered high-risk during surgical procedures. Overweight pets are at-risk when undergoing anesthesia, with their weight causing decreased lung functioning, reduced kidney and liver functioning, as well as a need for increased anesthetic than a pet of normal size. All of these complications create a life-threatening scenario for a procedure that might otherwise be routine. The obstacles caused by obesity attribute to a reduced lifespan, affecting a dog’s quality of life, their happiness, and comfort.

As pet owners, it becomes our responsibility to inform ourselves of how to best care for our pet and ensure their well-being. Nearly 24-40% of all pets suffer from some degree of obesity. A condition primarily affecting middle-aged pets, obesity has several causes, many of which can be prevented.

Leading causes of pet obesity:

  • Aging
  • Breed susceptibility
  • Dry food diet
  • Free-feeding (keeping a bowl full of food and allowing the pet to have unlimited access to it) or overfeeding a spayed or neutered pet
  • Illness that causes weight gain
  • Injury that requires sedentary lifestyle (either momentarily or prolonged)
  • Little to no exercise

Affording your pet a healthy lifestyle

The first step in helping your pet lose weight is to stop free-feeding. Giving your pet unlimited access to food is one of the worst things you can do for their health. Pets should be fed small, regular meals, 2 to 4 times per day. Frequently feeding smaller meals allows your pet to feel fuller without overfeeding and enables the body to burn off the meals more easily, concentrating on burning fewer calories at a time (rather than trying to burn off one giant meal). Also, avoid feeding your pet table scraps; human food is high in calories and fat. Finally, try to increase physical activity. Simply adding just 30 minutes of exercise per day can help your pet lose weight. For cats, consider switching to a canned or medicated food. Most dry foods are high in carbohydrates which can cause weight gain. Wet food and medicated dry food have fewer carbohydrates and can help with weight loss.

If your pet needs the support of our veterinary or nutritional staff, we can recommend a specialized diet and exercise plan for them, building a custom plan that will help them lose weight and maintain the weight loss. Veterinary support is especially helpful for pets that are experiencing weight gain caused by an illness such as a thyroid problem. In these instances, medication can be prescribed that will suppress the appetite and help stop fat absorption.

If you are concerned about your pet’s diet, weight, or lifestyle, feel free to contact us today at (501) 327-9200. We would be happy to assist you in any way we can.