Are you ready for a New Year’s Resolution? It’s the perfect time to focus on your pet’s overall health by helping them to trim down some excess weight. Many dogs and cats are carrying around a few extra pounds, which can contribute to joint discomfort, predispose them to developing arthritis, back pain or other health conditions. It can also shorten your pet’s life-expectancy! Weight loss may be difficult to recognize at home, where we do not typically weigh our dogs on a regular basis. Subtle changes may be hard to notice when you are looking at your dog every day. If you think your pet has been gaining weight, feel free to stop in and check a weight at our office.
So you know your pet is overweight, but what can you do about it? As with humans, pet weight loss is a balance of diet and exercise. The first step is to adequately measure your pet’s calorie intake. The most common culprit of weight gain is extra treats or table scraps in addition to the normal pet food. Even the smallest pet treats can pack a huge calorie punch and you may not even realize how much they are contributing to your pet’s weight. For pets that need treats for rewards, we recommend offering low-calorie treats. Some options include raw carrots, green beans and Cheerios. You can also measure out the full daily food amount for your pet and offer pieces from that allotment as treats throughout the day. This way, your pet has the illusion of receiving treats, without taking in any additional calories over the recommended daily feeding.
Meal feeding helps maintain a consistent food intake and allows you to monitor the amount of food your pet is eating. You should be measuring out your pet’s food each day and feeding 2 meals per day. Make sure that you are using an appropriate measuring cup to ensure that you know exactly how much food your pet is getting (see photo below). If you feed based on the recommendations of the food bag, you will often be over-feeding your pet. If you are already measuring out your dog’s food and think he/she is overweight, consider changing to a reduced calorie/weight loss formulation of the same diet or reduce the amount fed by about 25%. It is important to watch your pet’s weight closely during these adjustments. If you think they are losing too much weight, increase the amount slightly. If they are not losing enough, cut back by another 25%.
Make sure when implementing an exercise program, to always increase the amount of exercise gradually. Don’t expect your couch-potato Labrador to go out and run 3 miles when you first start out. This can lead to excess fatigue and orthopedic injuries. Many dogs enjoy chasing a ball or Frisbee and can get a lot of exercise in a short period of play each day. Cats can be a little trickier to encourage exercise. You can encourage more exercise in your cat by placing portions of their food in different places in the house. Dangling or string toys can be a fun way to get your cat to play also. Another fun way to combine eating and exercise is to by a food ball made specifically for cats. You put the entire amount of dry kibble into the ball and the cat has to roll and chase the ball to get the food out.
You may have seen our clinic cat Oliver and his dramatic weight loss. We were able to bring him down from 19.2lb to 12.4lb over a 2-year time period. His food was changed to Royal Canin Calorie Control and we decreased the amount of food he receives each day. We also drastically reduced the amount of treats he gets, much to the dismay of our front desk staff! He loves his food ball and eats his dinner from it each night.
Look at that waist!!!
If you aren’t sure if your pet is overweight or want suggestions on how to best help your pet lose weight, please schedule an appointment with one of our doctors.