Pet Health: Getting Your Pet in Shape to Travel

Fat Cat - get your pet in shape for travelHere’s the skinny: Healthier pets are better travelers. Getting your pet in shape to travel will require lots of lead time so start changing feeding habits early on.

A shocking report was recently issued by Pet Obesity Provention states that over half of the dog and cat population in the United States. is overweight. UK pets suffer with the same problem.

If your pet weighs over 15% of its ideal weight, it qualifies as overweight

Last year, pet owners with one unnamed insurance company paid over 25 million dollars to vets to treat obesity-related issues. Why? Because pets who are overweight or obese are at greater risk of a range of serious health problems such as diabetes, joint damage, ruptured cruciate ligaments, increased blood pressure, urinary incontinence, skin and hair coat issues, digestive issues. These are all common problems that affect obese pets.

Overweight pets are also prone to a poorer quality of life and less ability to exercise like they should.

Getting your pet in shape to travel is a very smart thing to do for a variety of reasons. Here are just a few of them.

Better chance of traveling the cabin

For example, if your pet is a smaller breed (under 19” in length) whose average weight is around 11 to 15 pounds, they will be able to travel in the cabin area of a plane as long as your airline pet policies allow for that. However, if a pet from the same breed is obese and weighs 20+ pounds your pet will not make the weight requirement for in-cabin travel. This especially pertains to international travel where the weight of a pet plus its carrier is checked more carefully.

Less breathing problems

Most dogs pant to regulate body temperature (since the sweat glands in their paws are basically inefficient). When a dog pants, heat escapes through the moisture of  its tongue, mouth and throat. As it exhales during panting, the moist air evaporates and keeps your pet cool.

When a dog is overweight, regulating body temperature becomes difficult and heavy panting occurs. Heavy panting causes stress, anxiety and dehydration. It can also lead to heat stroke.

Better chance your pet will withstand the rigors of traveling and a new environment

A healthy pet will have increased stamina, a better tolerance of weather conditions as well as better breathing capabilities. All of these factors play an important role in adjusting your pet to travel to new places.

How do you know whether your pet is overweight?

You should be able to see your pet’s ribs slightly through their skin as they walk and easily feel them when you run your hands along their sides. There should be a distinct pinch in the waist after the ribs and before the hips.  Look for an hourglass shape when you look down at your pet’s spine.

What you can do to get your pet in shape to travel

The first step is to figure your pet’s ideal weight. Your veterinarian can assist you with this.  Then determine your pet’s current weight. If  you are not due for a vet visit, just weight yourself, then pick up your pet, weigh yourself again and subtract the bigger number from the smaller number.

Depending on their level of exercise, the amount of calories your cat or dog needs can vary greatly. Obviously, if you have an active breed of dog or cat, they will need more calories than a sedentary one.

Don’t substitute food for affection. Dogs associate food with fuel and energy. If given the opportunity to overeat, they will take it. If you want to show your dog love, then give them attention, not extra food.

Here are tips to control your pet’s weight:

  • More exercise for both of you. This is the most effective way to help your pet lose weight.
  • Make sure that you are not overfeeding your pet. Your veterinarian can help with this or do some research on your own.
  • Don’t leave your pet’s food out all day. Mealtime should be scheduled at the same time everyday. Give your pet a reasonable time to finish their meal, then remove their food bowl.
  • Give love, not treats – reward your pet’s good behavior with love and attention, not high caloric treats.
  • Make them work for their food. Many toy manufacturers make toys that will distribute food slowly such as Kong toys. Find a food bowl with a maze that will slow your dog’s feeding time down.
  • Give your pet water with food, especially dry food. Water will create a  feeling of fullness.
  • Add vegetables to your pet’s food. Green beans and some carrots will add bulk but few calories to their dinner.
  • Slowly limit the amount of food that you give your pet. Slowly.
  • Consider a slow transition from a carb-based food to a fresh diet. Less convenient, for sure, but better for overweight pets.
  • Monitor their weight and measure it every week. One to two percent per week weight loss is ideal.
  • Read the label and be aware of the ingredients in your pet’s chow. More protein which takes longer to digest and less carbs which are more easily turned to fat are best.
  • Try speaking to your veterinarian about putting your pet on a low fat diet.
  • Get out and get going. Again, the more exercise that your pet experiences, the easier it will be to lose weight.

Many vets consider animal obesity to be the most preventable pet health crisis facing the United States and the United Kingdom. As with preparing in advance to acclimate your pet to its crate or carrier is important, so is getting your pet in shape to travel.


Comments

Pet Health: Getting Your Pet in Shape to Travel — 1 Comment

  1. I am surprised to hear that so many pets are considered overweight! I didn’t realize that a dog’s heavy panting could cause it more stress as well. I think it’s important to help your pets become healthier not just for travel, but to relieve stress and discomfort in their daily life.

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