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The COVID Weight Gain
Monday, May 25, 2020
  By: Kingsdale Animal Hospital  In: Pet Health
The COVID Weight Gain

For the first time in six weeks, veterinarians are able to perform preventative health care again in Ontario. (On April 4th, the provincial government restricted veteriarians to Urgent Care only in order to limit the spread of COVID 19). All of our appointments are still curbside. This new government declaration means that we are very busy catching pets up on overdue vaccines and Heartworm testing in preparation for summer. A common trend among many of the pets (both dogs and cats) that we have seen this past week is that many of them have gained weight since COVID began. This blog discusses the causes, effects, and ways to manage the COVID Weight Gain.

With many of us stuck in our homes more often these days, we have turned to baking and cooking as ways to pass the time. Many pets are also getting treats more often now too. We used to only give our dog a treat when we got home from work, but now she gets treats much more often since we are home more often! Although many pet owners are taking their dogs for a walk more frequently now, it still appears that the net balance of caloric intake is higher than the amount of calories burned from those walks. Additionally, some dogs used to go to doggy daycare on a regular basis. Now, either because the owners are home more often, or because the daycares themselves are closed (or both), those pets are not able to be as active as they used to be. Doggy daycare is an excellent way for your dog to burn calories and get exercise, in addition to socializing with other dogs.

When pets gain weight, it can impact their health. Overweight pets are more prone to diabetes, arthritis, and breathing problems (tracheal collapse, snoring, respiratory difficulties). Some of these health problems are reversed once the pet loses weight. However, other health problems become chronic diseases over time. This is why it is important to keep your pet at an ideal weight.

The COVID weight gain in pets will hopefully be temporary. I'm hoping that with the warmer summer weather, our pets will be increasingly active in the summer time and burn those calories. Also, when I discuss the COVID weight gain with pet owners, most of them are aware of it in their pets and promise to reduce the amount of treats they are given. If you think your pet has gained weight during COVID, focus on the caloric imbalance to try and get them to lose the weight again. Remember that in order to lose weight, the calories burned must be greater than the calories ingested. In terms to increasing the calories burned, focus on getting your pet more active. Take your dog for a walk more often, or increase the distance of your daily walks. Play fetch in the yard more often. If they like to swim, the warm weather provides a great opportunity for outdoor swimming. Even cats can become more active at home if you encourage them. Play with your cat with their favourite toy. Have them "hunt" for their food around the house. Instead of just putting their food in a bowl, put some kibbles in a toy (or a water bottle with holes cut in it) so that they have to roll, chase, and play with the toy to get the kibbles out. Encourage your cat to run around the house using toys and food as stimuli.

In terms of reducing calories ingested, consider cutting down on the amount of treats they get. This is often the problem in COVID weight gain. Choose a lower fat treat or use a vegetable (like carrots, celery, peppers, lettuce) as a treat instead. If you normally mixed "people food" in with their kibble (chicken, rice, pasta, tomato sauce, cheese, etc), please reduce some of it. Pet nutrition studies have demonstrates that over 90% of the calories that a pet intakes in a day should be from kibble or canned food. That means that no more than 10% of their daily calories should come from "people food", treats, or toppers.

If you are concerned about your pet's weight gain please feel free to give us a call to discuss it. We can calculate your pet's caloric needs based on their weight and lifestyle. There are also prescription weight loss diets that can help pets lose weight. One of our veterinarians or registered veterinary technicians would be happy to go through all of these options with you.

Stay safe and remember to practice social distancing!

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