At the start of a new year many of us begin to think about starting a new diet or exercise program - something to improve our physical fitness. Now is a great time to evaluate your pets' physical fitness as well.
Obesity is a serious health issue in this country - for both pets and their owners. Similar to people, there are many health risks linked to obesity in animals. There is an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, anesthesia complications and structural problems for our pets when we allow them to become significantly overweight.
A thin, conditioned pet will likely live longer, and will certainly have a better quality of life than a sendentary overweight animal. I do make an exception for "elderly" pets. Depending on the breed, that may be eight years for giant breed dogs, or 14 years for cats and small dogs. I try to have my elderly pets carry a little extra weight just in case they catch a virus. Similar to elderly humans, elderly pets can get very sick from a fairly common virus that a younger pet would quickly recover from.
Hip dysplasia is a common health issue for our pet dogs. Studies now prove that raising overweight puppies can significantly increase the severity of dysplasia - it is not genetics alone that determine the severity of the disease. Once dysplasia is diagnosed, carrying any extra weight only adds to the dogs discomfort. Pets get arthritis in their joints just like we do (especially dysplastic joints), and pets that are kept thin and active their whole life have a much lower chance of developing painful arthritis.
Our pets are naturally built to lead very active lives. Felines and canines in the wild spend hours each day hunting, playing and patrolling their territory. A healthy pet has the same physique as a healthy person - lean and muscular with little body fat.