Archive for October, 2010
This is always a sensitive subject to speak about but it is an important one so lets get it out of the way. Obesity– there, I said it, it is the elephant in the room. Why is it so important? Well just think about weight and humans. The extra weight we carry affects our joints and makes it harder for us to get around; over time, that extra weight causes osteoarthritis which can cause pain and inflammation. In our pets this may look like difficulty rising or taking time to lay down, inability to walk long distances, inability to go up or down stairs, to name a few. When these signs occur, we often have to reach for medications, diets, acupuncture or other treatment modalities to help. Eventually, if our pet can’t walk, the decisions we have to face are heartbreaking. Obesity can lead to respiratory illness, diabetes,,, pancreatitis and heart disease.
The best way to help avoid these problems is through prevention. Most of us really don’t know how much we feed or how much to feed. To say to us, ”I feed him this much” and use your hands as a demo doesn’t tell us much. Feeding once a day, or twice a day, is not the culprit. It is the total amount we feed for the day that matters. You must take into account all the biscuits, table food, chew bones, and dog food. That total amount is the most important thing to keep in mind. Exercise is also a part, but starting with the right amount to feed is key. As a veterinarian, I almost never have to say for a young animal, “please put weight on your pet, he’s a little thin”.
Okay, so where do we start. First of all, the average dog food has 350 calories in a cup. The average cat food is 400 calories in a cup. Some dog foods can be a high as 500 calories. This information is not on the back of the bag. Usually the place to look is on the manufacturer’s web site or call the company.
Calories needed for the average dog are calculated by knowing their RER which refers to Resting Energy Requirements. If the pet is normal and a good weight, the weight calculation used is by taking RER and multiplying it by as much as 1.6. For weight loss, their calories are calculated by 1.0 X RER. Here are some general number for RER in different weights.
Remember that not every dog is the same. Some dogs are more energy efficient meaning they need fewer calories to support their body weight than other dogs. It is always a good idea to start by writing down what you feed in a day and then finding out how many calories that adds up to. Include those pieces of chicken or cookies that you may be feeding. If you’re not sure if your pet is too heavy just ask us at your next appointment. We always say you want to be able to feel their spines and ribs without having to push down hard but you should never see their spine or ribs. Most dogs should also have a tapered waist. If you aren’t sure we can help. We can give you a guideline and help set up a weight loss program for you.
As for Cats, well the old adage “a mouse a day” is accurate. The average cat requires usually 180-250 calories a day. That may be as little as 1/2 cup of dry food daily. Some cats, as with dogs, may be more energy efficient and require less. You never drastically want to cut a cat’s food without checking with your veterinarian. It is always best to check with one first. Most cats are also inactive. They sleep an average of 20 hours a day, so it is important to try to get them moving. Try using a laser pointer. Get them to run for their treats. Whatever works best for you. The key to remember is not to just fill the bowl up and walk away and automatic feeders (ugh) are not a good idea.
It can seem overwhelming at first, but know we are here to help. We will help your pet get started on the right foot with the right plan. You may not need to change anything. But ignoring the issue is never good. I often tell clients we know you love your pets, but showing them love through food only makes us feels less guilt. The true love is doing what is best for them.