Nutrition and exercise for pets
REACHING AND MAINTAINING a healthy weight reduces your pet’s risk of disease and injury, and contributes to a better quality of life and a longer life expectancy for your pet.


First and foremost, you need to have an honest conversation with your veterinarian about your pet’s weight. Your veterinarian can assess your pet’s weight and overall health and make recommendations regarding your pet’s weight, diet, and exercise. Your veterinarian can also teach you to assess your pet’s body condition by observing your pet’s body shape and feeling certain parts of your pet’s body. A healthy weight isn’t simply a number on a scale; it’s about healthy body composition. 


Keeping your pet at a healthy weight lowers his/her risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, respiratory disease, kidney disease, and some forms of cancer. It can also reduce the risks of injury to bones, joints, and muscles that are associated with excess weight. If your pet has arthritis, keeping him/her at a healthy weight makes it easier to manage the discomfort associated with joint pain. Because excess weight can reduce your pet’s life expectancy by more than two years, keeping your pet trim gives them the best chance of a longer, healthier, and pain-free life.


It’s probably no surprise, but there’s no one-size-fits-all approach or magic remedy to help your pet shed excess pounds. What works for one pet doesn’t necessarily work for another pet. Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight requires a commitment to a healthier lifestyle that achieves a balance between the calories consumed and the calories used by the body for normal functions and activity. Even a modest reduction in weight can significantly reduce your pet’s risk of life-threatening diseases. In simplest terms, weight loss involves reducing your pet’s caloric intake and increasing their activity level to burn more calories. Be patient. It often takes longer to lose weight than it did for your pet to gain it.

• Put your pet first 

Working with your veterinarian, make an honest assessment of your pet’s health and weight. Does your pet have any medical problems that have been caused – or made worse – by excess weight? Is your pet’s weight putting him/her at a higher risk of disease or problems? Focus on what matters – your pet’s good health and long life.

• It’s not about you 

Your veterinarian’s honest assessment of your pet’s weight and health isn’t a judgment or evaluation of your own weight or level of health or a statement about your ability to care for your pet. If you’re interested in a healthier lifestyle for yourself, consult your physician. Your veterinarian has your pet’s best interests in mind, and his/her recommendations are based on a commitment to your pet’s good health. It’s not about you; it’s about your pet’s health.

• Make a family commitment 

A commitment to reach and maintain a healthy weight for your pet requires a commitment from the entire family – a weight loss plan isn’t going to succeed if one family member sneaks your pet extra food. Remind your family that there are many ways other than food to demonstrate and express their love for your family pet.

• Feed a nutritious and healthy diet 

Eliminate table scraps and fattening high-calorie treats; keep food treats to a minimum and focus on healthier food and treats; and don’t give in to the sad, begging eyes. It may help to slow your pet’s food consumption by using a special bowl or food puzzle that makes it harder for them to gulp their food, or by using toys that dispense food in small amounts (be careful to keep the total daily amount of food within an acceptable amount). Smaller, more frequent feedings may also be of benefit to your pet’s health. Feed your pet a balanced, nutritious pet food. 

Consult with your veterinarian about the best food choice for your pet’s condition. The recommended feeding amount printed on the pet food label might not be appropriate for your pet. Consult your veterinarian about the amount and frequency of feeding that’s right for your pet.

The recommended feeding amount printed on the pet food label might not be appropriate for your pet. Consult your veterinarian about the amount and frequency of feeding that’s right for your pet.

• Set goals 

Work with your veterinarian as a team to develop realistic goals for healthily reducing your pet’s weight. Rapid weight loss can result in serious health problems, so ask your veterinarian for recommendations for healthier eating and exercise that will produce a reasonable and safe rate of weight loss based on your pet’s overall health.

• Make it fun 

Being more active and living a healthier lifestyle benefits the entire family. Find activities you enjoy that can include your pet, and the journey will be more enjoyable for all of you.

• Monitor and record progress 

Once you’ve set reasonable goals to achieve and maintain your pet’s healthy weight, be sure to monitor and record your pet’s progress. As with all weight loss programs, there will be successes, and there will be missteps. By monitoring and recording your pet’s progress, you can determine what’s working and what’s not effective, and make adjustments as needed to the program.

Maintaining your pet’s healthy weight gives your pet the best chance of living a healthier, longer life as a beloved member of your family. Talk to your veterinarian today about your pet’s weight.

• Body Condition Score Chart 


There are many ways better than food treats to demonstrate your love of your pet, such as quality time and play. What your pet wants most, more than food or treats, is your attention, interaction, and affection. Whenever your pet begs or cries for food, try taking them for a walk or playing with them. Positive rewards of praise, petting, and play are crucial components of a healthy relationship and lifestyle. If your pet primarily receives food rewards instead of your interaction, they begin to rely on food for comfort instead of your touch. 

The best play for your dog is a brisk walk. Fifteen to 30 minutes per day is adequate for most dogs. Bigger or more active breeds may require up to an hour or more of vigorous activity per day to remain healthy and mentally sharp. Cats like to hunt and chase, so try hiding their food or moving it farther away from their sleeping area. Engage your cat with appropriate and safe cat toys like paper bags, flashlights, balls or feather toys. Experiment with toys and understand that what your cat finds interesting to play with today may be boring tomorrow.

JUST ONE LITTLE TREAT… Our pets mean the world to us and, unfortunately, we often demonstrate our love for our pets by giving them food treats. But it’s easy to forget that pets have different nutritional needs than we do, and what may seem like an innocuous food treat to us could be a calorie overload for our pets. Take a look at these calorie comparisons:

To a 10 lb Cat:  

One potato chip is the caloric equivalent of a person eating ½ of a hamburger.

1 oz. of cheese is the caloric equivalent of a person eating 2 ½ hamburgers

1 cup of milk is the caloric equivalent of a person eating 4 ½ hamburgers

To a 20 lb Dog: 

One hot dog is the caloric equivalent of a person eating three hamburgers

1 oz. of cheese is the caloric equivalent of a person eating 2 ½ hamburgers

One cookie is the caloric equivalent of a person eating one hamburger

Nutritious low-calorie treat alternatives for dogs include crunchy baby carrots, broccoli, celery, and fresh green beans. Cats crave small pinches of tuna, salmon, or lean cuts of chicken and turkey. Remember that dogs don’t do fractions; break treats into small pieces to save calories.

About Brook-Falls
Brook-Falls Veterinary Hospital and Exotic Care is dedicated to providing quality care to all companion pets and exotic animals. Brook-Falls is a Menomonee Falls, WI-based full-service veterinary hospital with an extensive range of comprehensive medical, dental, diagnostic, and surgical services to meet the varying needs of all patients. Brook-Falls Veterinary also offers informational and educational media and seminars for pet owners by way of blogs, digital TV series (Expert Veterinary Television), e-books, whitepapers, infographics, and more.
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