(Welcome to the weekly pet column of Pet Connection Programs Inc. of Marilla, N.Y. A new article is posted each week, so be sure to check back on a regular basis!)
As we head into the holidays and end-of-year festivities, you’ll likely find many news articles and blogs with tips about how to avoid putting on extra pounds at this time of year. But what about our pets?
Obesity is one of the biggest health risks for dogs. Obesity increases the risk of osteoarthritis and joint inflammation, kidney disease, hypertension and diabetes, as well as many other serious medical conditions, leading to a shortened lifespan. Even a few extra pounds above ideal weight can have a devastating impact on our pets’ overall health. More than half of the dogs in the United States are considered overweight or obese. For dogs that already have osteoarthritis, carrying extra weight can increase their pain and discomfort.
This is a time of year with an abundance of rich foods and treats of all kinds. It can be tempting to give our pets samples of our food or reward them with extra treats. You can still give your pet treats and help keep their weight in check.
Consider giving them fruit or vegetables for treats and snacks, such as blueberries, green beans or even broccoli (but NEVER grapes or raisins). For something more fun, you could blend some frozen bananas, berries or canned pumpkin for a healthier “ice cream” alternative.
If you want to give your pets extra cookies or biscuits, just remember to scale back the amount of food you feed them with their meals. Treats should not make up more than 10% of your pet’s daily calories. And if your pet is already overweight, talk to your veterinarian about how you can help them safely lose weight and keep it off.
Renowned small-animal surgeon and rehabilitation specialist Dr. Kristin Kirkby Shaw has dedicated her career to helping dog owners and veterinary professionals identify early signs of arthritis and implement comprehensive treatment plans that include weight loss, regular exercise, pain management, strengthening exercises and rehabilitation, supplements and more. Dr. Shaw founded Canine Arthritis Resources and Education (CARE, CanineArthritis.org) in 2019 as a free educational resource with tools and tactics she uses with her own patients and with her own dogs that have had arthritis.
(For more information on pets and animal adoption, please visit www.petconnectionprogramsinc.com. Or, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/PetConnectionProgramsinc. Located in Marilla, N.Y., Pet Connection Programs Inc. is a nonprofit maternity and special care shelter founded in 1984.)