Getting Fit for the PAWsome New Year

Happy New Year! January is the month of new beginnings and my resolution is to eat healthier and exercise more often. Nutrition and exercise play an important role in keeping humans healthy, however, the same goes for our pets. In this day and age, it is very common to have an animal that is a little too “fluffy” for their own good. We have all struggled with having to resist constantly rewarding those cute faces with treats. However, obesity can predispose pets to a multitude of health issues that may shorten their life span, including arthritis, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Obesity occurs when calorie intake exceeds daily calorie requirements. Recommendations listed on the back of food bags are not always accurate to determine how much to feed your animal, especially if they are overweight. The amount of food fed daily should be based on the animal’s resting energy requirement which is defined as the amount of calories needed for the body to function during rest, as well as how active they are, age, and whether they are neutered (fixed) or intact. Naturally, very active animals require more calories daily, compared to those that would rather be napping on the couch. We at Norwalk Animal Hospital can easily calculate how many calories your pet should be eating in a day based on your animal’s lifestyle and body condition score, or BCS.

Typically, if requested during an exam, a veterinarian can assign your pet a body condition score on a scale of one through nine, with one being severely thin and nine being very overweight. A BCS is assessed based on how easily ribs are felt, amount of fat present over the lumbar area and base of the tail, abdominal distension, and whether they have an abdominal tuck (waist). An ideal body condition score lies between four and five. See the attached BCS charts to determine where your pet lies (

Have a pet that is overweight? Not to fear! Cutting out treats from a dog’s diet and increasing their exercise can often help. Your vet may even recommend cutting down on the amount of food fed by 25% if the pet is not typically very active. There are also low fat dog food options available to help get them into fighting shape. Offering vegetables (carrots, green beans, cucumbers, or broccoli), or pieces of kibble as treats are also good low calorie options when done in moderation. That way, we can reward our pets without negatively impacting their progress. These recommendations may not be appropriate for all animals so be sure to consult with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet. When transitioning to a new diet, it is recommended to do so slowly (over about 7 days) to avoid gastrointestinal upset. At Norwalk Animal Hospital we offer a variety of well-balanced prescription diets to make it more convenient for our clients.

Do you find it hard to get your pet up and moving when they would rather lounge on the couch? Let us do the work for you! Norwalk Animal Hospital offers underwater treadmill sessions, often used for rehabilitation post-surgery, but can also be suggested to help patients lose weight and build muscle. If interested, we would be happy to set up an exercise plan for your pet at times convenient for you!

Have you tried everything to help your dog lose weight without any luck? Your pet may have hypothyroidism, which means that their thyroid is underactive making it difficult for them to maintain a healthy body weight. Once diagnosed via blood test, this disease can often be managed with thyroid supplementation. If you think your pet may be struggling with this issue, we at Norwalk Animal Hospital would be happy to help you figure it out. A healthy pet is a happy pet!