Part of recovery from, or management of, an orthopedic condition involves body condition
management. We are probably used to seeing dogs and cats that are carrying around extra
weight. The reality is, our society values the way heavier pets look. But, extra weight on painful
joints makes getting around difficult. The extra load can also stress surgical repair, making
problems more likely during post-operative recovery. There are many other conditions heavy
pets are prone to, such as cancer and organ problems.
Try this: Run your fingers of one hand over the flat part of the back of the other hand. Lightly
feel the bones in your hand just below the knuckles (toward your wrist about an inch). That is
how easily you should be able to feel your pet’s ribs, if his or her body condition is healthy. Do
the ribs feel more like the palm of your hand? If so, he or she is too heavy. Alternatively, if the
ribs feel like the top of your knuckles when you are making a fist, your pet is too thin.
A dog or cat with a healthy, lean weight has an hour-glass figure when viewed from above
while standing. There should be a “tucked” appearance to his or her abdomen when viewed
from the side.
For many of us, feeding our pets treats is part of how we show them we care about them. It is
a great way to interact with them, and we love seeing them so happy. But, just like us, those
calories add up! If your veterinarian has recommended weight loss, consider cutting back on
the amount of treats you feed, and replace higher calorie snacks with vegetables such as baby
carrots or green beans. These can be kept in your freezer if you prefer.
In many cases, a change in food is necessary to help a pet to lose weight. Our lives are busy,
and most patients are on some form of exercise restriction, so typically, increasing activity is
not enough to produce weight loss. There are lighter calorie versions of many brands of dog
food. There are also prescription diets your veterinarian can recommend to make pet’s weight
loss goal even more likely to be a success. Please ask your veterinarian if weight loss should
be a part of managing your family member’s comfort. Your vet will make a plan to achieve a
healthy lean body condition that will help maximize your pet’s comfort.