Fitness and Fur challenge helps local pets reach weight-loss goals
CODY – Pesky pandemic pounds have been dogging people down since COVID-19 hit last year, and, it turns out, pets have been feeling it too.
In January, Cody Veterinary Hospital kicked off Fitness and Fur, a three-month weight loss challenge empowering owners to take back their pet’s health. Leading the charge is Gabbi, a three-year-old Miniature Australian Shepard who has become the face of the program.
“Gabbi gained ten pounds in the last year,” Dr. Kaycee Stagner, Gabbi’s owner and CVH veterinarian, said. “She was napping constantly, playing less, and wasn’t as happy overall.”
Unfortunately, Gabbi isn’t the only one packing a few extra pounds. “Vets say around half of the dogs they see, 40 percent of cats and 30 percent of small mammals are overweight,” according to a study by Georgina Mills.
Why does your pet’s weight matter? A few extra pounds increase the risk of heart, joint, and breathing issues in the long run and make surgeries and medical procedures more dangerous.
“Any weight loss can make a huge difference in your pet’s quality of life and lifespan,” Stagner said. “That’s why it’s so important to fix the problem now rather than later.”
To start that journey, Fitness and Fur participants were examined and received their goal weight by a CVH veterinarian. For three months, each pet regularly weighed in to track their weight loss progress.
“We all love our pets, but sometimes life happens and their weight slips,” Stagner said. “Gabbi, more than my other animals, suffered from my busy schedule during the pandemic.”
With the help of Fitness and Fur, Gabbi lost four pounds in three months and is well on her way to reaching her weight loss goals.
“Her weight loss has changed her energy levels dramatically,” Stagner said. “She has the energy to run around again, takes fewer naps, and you can just tell she feels better.”
The secret to Gabbi’s progress, Stagner said, is her diet.
“So many people show their pets love with food,” Stagner said. “A lot of people don’t realize the effect all those extra treats can have on their pet’s long-term health. They just think their pets are fat and happy.”
While treats aren’t all bad, table scraps and too many calories are a problem. 65 percent of dog owners say they regularly give their dogs ‘people food’ and only four percent of owners changed their dog’s meal size to account for treats, according to a study by G. A. White.
“Gabbi still gets treats for being a good girl,” Stagner said. “But I give her low calorie alternatives, like green beans, or kibble from her dinner. That way she only gets what she needs.”
Due to her breed, Gabbi naturally struggles with her weight. To help prevent weight gain, she started a prescription metabolic diet in January that works with her metabolism to not only drop pounds but also keep them off.
“Every animal is different when it comes to weight gain, just like people,” Stagner said. “It’s important to work with your veterinarian to build the best plan for you and your pet.”
On top of her new diet, Gabbi’s also been exercising more as part of her weight loss plan.
“We take longer, more frequent walks now,” Stagner said. “And, because of her weight loss, she’s started playing with my other dogs more.”
That exercise is critical for her progress. In fact, dogs who don’t get an hour of daily exercise are much more likely to be overweight, according to a study by Alexander German.
For adventurous owners, Park County has multiple hiking trails, parks, and outdoor spaces to workout in. For cats and small pets, Stagner recommends picking up lasers, toys that encourage activity, or even a running wheel to help keep them moving.
“We also have great options for people who can’t exercise their pets,” Stagner said. “Boarding facilities are offering doggy day care for dogs to safely run around and play, and we work with local trainers who make house calls to teach you how to safely work with your pet.”
As a result of her activity, Gabbi’s well on her way to meeting her fitness goals, and she’s not the only one. In less than three-months, Fitness and Fur participants lost about 35 pounds and almost every pet reached or passed the halfway point to their goal weight.
While the 2021 Fitness and Fur challenge has ended, you can still take advantage of CVH’s free weigh-ins and in-house prescription food. “Talk to your vet about your pet’s weight,” Stagner said. “We’ll work with you to come up with a plan for your pet to become their healthiest and happiest self with the schedule and budget you have.”
The weight loss journey is going to be challenging and take commitment, but the team at Cody Veterinary Hospital is ready to support you and your pet every step of the way.
“You aren’t being mean to your pet by cutting back on treats, changing their food, or asking them to exercise more,” Stagner said. “Those changes are actually the kindest thing you can do for them, and it’ll be so worth it in the end.”