new-year-catWell, we have reached 2016. It is time for resolutions and commitments. We have decided to exercise more, quit smoking, or become a better person. I hope all these things come true, but what about resolutions for our pets. Can we resolve to make them healthier? Of course, we can. Resolutions can be good for our pets and for ourselves.

During the holiday season, we may have put on a few pounds, and we have resolved to get rid of the extra baggage. Have you looked at your dog or cat? They may have also put on a few pounds. Just like us, the extra weight increases the risk for many medical problems.

Dogs that carry more weight are more prone to arthritis and athletic injuries. Dogs, even the couch potatoes, are more likely to develop soft tissue injuries. This may be a simple pulled or strained muscle, or it can even be a torn ligament. Did you know dogs can tear their anterior cruciate ligament, commonly called the ACL? Just like in humans, it requires surgery to repair.

All this stress on the joints also increases the risk of developing arthritis. The more weight an animal carries will increase the stress on the joints. This in turn leads to arthritis developing. Decreasing the weight decreases the risk of developing these issues.

The dogs that carry more weight will also carry more fat on their body. The fat in the neck region will increase their tendency to snore and have difficulty breathing. The fat narrows the airway in the back of the throat, and the fat around the heart will push on the windpipe or trachea. Once again, the solution is fat reduction and weight loss.

So what about the cats? I have heard several times that the owner wants a fat cat just like Garfield. What the cartoon does not show is Garfield when his fat catches up with him. Cats have similar problems as humans. Obese cats are at a high risk of developing diabetes. Weight related diabetes is a very difficult thing to manage until they lose weight. Sound familiar?

Fat cats are just as prone to arthritis as dogs. Unlike dogs, cats are very limited in treatment options. Of course, weight loss is the best treatment because there is less stress on the joints. However, if there is arthritis and extreme pain, we have only one approved non-narcotic drug. This drug is very effective, but it is not approved for long term use. The best solution is to minimize stress on the joints in the first place.

So we have discussed a few problems for our cats and dogs. What can be done to minimize or eliminate the risk for these problems? It is the same solution as for us. We have resolved to eat less and exercise more. Our pets need more exercise and decreased calories.

Put your dog on a leash and take them with you. They love the interaction with you and the exercise will lead to fat loss. Cats can also be put on a leash, but I know this is more difficult. So, have a cat chase a laser pointer, or at least swat at the light beam. It really does not matter, as long as there is some movement. Decrease their calories gradually. Animals should not go through a crash diet. It causes the same issues as with us. An animal’s calories should not be decreased by more than 25% at one time. Diets should be gradual, and they will be more effective.

Making a resolution during the New Year can be a very healthy thing. Remember to include your pet during this time. Also when you make the resolution, a year is 365 days, not just the month of January. I hope everyone has a wonderful and healthy New Year.