Pet Weight Loss Tips

August 7, 2017

Pet Weight Loss Tips

Embarking on Your Pet’s Weight Loss Journey
How a Physical Rehabilitation Team Can Help
By Sandra Dowd, BA, LVT, VTS-Physical Rehabilitation (OC), CCRP, CSMP


In the United States, it is estimated that one in every four dogs and cats presented to a veterinarian is overweight or obese. This condition is usually seen in pets as young as 1 year of age and can peak between 5 and 10 years of age. Obesity is defined as excessive body mass resulting in impairment of health and/or body function. Obesity is a widely recognized medical concern in veterinary medicine; research has found that even moderately overweight dogs and cats are at a greater risk for early development of disease and therefore a shortened life span. Obesity also puts a large strain on muscles and joints, which puts those affected at a higher risk of injury and joint pain.

Managing or preventing obesity in your pet requires that we first gain an understanding of the contributing risk factors. Things that can contribute to obesity include inactivity, overfeeding, hypothyroidism, and orthopedic or neurologic conditions that limit mobility. Controlling food intake and providing adequate exercise on a regular basis can reduce the development of obesity in pets.  Addressing any underlying medical condition(s) is also vital to achieving a successful weight management program.

For pets diagnosed as obese, a physical rehabilitation team can develop a management plan that fits his or her needs, as well as the needs of the owner. A successful weight management plan should take into consideration your physical abilities as well as willingness to control calories and initiate exercise sessions with your pet.

Weight management is incorporated into every patient’s physical rehabilitation program at East End Veterinary Center. Education on the dangers of obesity, suggestions on ways to prevent excess calorie intake and fun games to promote increased activity are provided to every pet parent during the first appointment.

Measuring your pet’s food rather than “eyeballing” the amount fed is an easy pro tip to help prevent excess calorie intake. It is also helpful to offer safe, healthy treats in place of commercial dog treats; discovering which pet-safe fruits and veggies that your pet likes to eat can be fun for your whole family! Does your pet prefer broccoli or string beans? Today could be a good day to find out! Our physical rehabilitation team can provide you with a comprehensive list of recommended pet-safe treats at your consultation appointment, but for a sneak peek, see our edition of “Feed This Not That” below to get started.


Feed Carrots,
Both cats and dogs love snacking on carrots! They are both healthy and delicious. Be sure to cook carrots before feeding them to cats or small dogs, as they could pose a choking hazard raw if the pieces are too big.

Not Grapes!
Grapes and raisins are extremely toxic to both cats and dogs! They can make your pet very sick and can even cause kidney failure in extreme cases.


Feed Boiled Chicken,
Leaner meats like boiled chicken and reduced fat ground beef are great snacks for your pet. They are jam packed with necessary protein and are extremely healthy!

Not Bacon!
Greasy, fattier meat products like bacon or pepperoni are unhealthy and could cause painful tummy aches for your pet. Fatty foods also contribute to weight gain and obesity, which can in turn lead to painful joint and heart problems for your pet down the line.


Feed Plain Green Beans,
Not only are plain (not buttered or seasoned) green beans delicious for dogs (cats don’t tend to like them), but they contain a lot of fiber and healthy vitamins that help your pooch feel full for longer. They are a perfect low-calorie snack, especially for dogs that are looking to shed a few pounds! Pop them in the fridge before feeding for a cool, refreshing summer treat.

Not Ice Cream!
Just like humans, many pets are intolerant of or sensitive to lactose in dairy products, which can cause tummy aches and digestive issues. Even if your pet isn’t, the large amounts of sugar in ice cream can contribute to obesity and should be avoided.

Feed Plain Pureed Pumpkin,
Canned or fresh cooked (not buttered or seasoned) pumpkin is a perfect snack for your pet. Not only does it contain fiber which helps regulate your pet’s digestion, but it is rich in vitamins and minerals that benefit the whole body!

Not Spices!
When putting together healthy treats for your pet, you may feel tempted to spice things up with a little extra flavor. Unfortunately, many spices can be harmful for pets including cinnamon, nutmeg, paprika, chili powder, cocoa powder, and onion powder. It is best to let the original flavors of your healthy treats speak for themselves!   


Increased mobility is another factor in a weight management program. For obese patients that have decreased mobility due to arthritis or other orthopedic/neurologic conditions, we often recommend an underwater treadmill or “aquatic therapy”, which we offer on-site at our hospital. The warm water helps relax painful joints and muscles, allowing for improved function during exercise. The water also provides buoyancy for pets who find it difficult to walk on painful joints, allowing them to exercise in a supported environment. This treadmill is an excellent option to help promote weight loss and increased mobility for many pets, including cats! Incorporating our physio-balls and balance boards into your pet’s exercise program is also a great way to improve core strength and mobility. 

While we do offer a wide range of beneficial exercise tools on-site at our hospital, home care is extremely important as well. You can take an active role in designing a home exercise plan for your pet by identifying fun activities that your family already enjoys. We can even help you create a custom exercise plan that can be incorporated into “family fun time” or other aspects of your everyday life. We also encourage you to think outside the box; pets don’t always have to eat a full meal in one sitting. Utilizing food puzzles or games with part of the day’s food ration is a fun way to increase in-home activity.

Continuous follow up with a physical rehabilitation team is important to the success of any weight loss program. Understand that adjustments to nutrition will need to be made as your pet’s weight changes. Your observations, questions and ideas are also important and can be addressed during re-evaluations.

By using a team approach to weight management you, your pet, and your veterinary support system can achieve a successful outcome. Though the journey may seem overwhelming from the outside looking in, once you start to observe your pet’s increased participation in activity and family life, it’ll be easy to commit to a comprehensive weight loss plan long-term.

To get started on your pet’s journey to weight loss and a healthy lifestyle, give us a call at 631-369-4513 to make an appointment with East End Veterinary Center, your specialty and 24/7 emergency hospital for companion animals in Riverhead, NY.