Pet Obesity has become a severe problem in the United States today. According to research from the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, approximately 57% of cats and 52% of dogs are classified as obese or overweight.
Obesity in pets can lead to various health problems, such as an increased risk of diabetes, joint and organ problems, respiratory issues, heart disease and even cancer. It can also reduce the pet’s life expectancy and quality of life overall. As a result, pet owners need to take steps to ensure their pet stays at a healthy weight.
Because pet obesity can lead to lasting health issues, pet owners need a plan to prevent and combat pet obesity. We recommend a two-pronged approach: Diet and Exercise. I know; boring. But it doesn’t have to be! Regular walks, playtime and dog agility courses are all excellent ways for pet owners to help strengthen the bond between them and their dog, with fabulous results! Laser tag, playing “Chase” (have you ever run through your house dragging a rope behind you), and sometimes even “Hide-and-Go-Seek” can be really fun ways to entertain, interact, and exercise your cat! Increased activity helps your pet maintain a healthy weight – and there are side benefits for you as well. 😊
Diet is the second “prong” in our approach to helping pets maintain a healthy weight. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But this is where it gets a little tricky! We love our pets, and part of loving them is giving them “special” treats; right? WE are having a bowl of ice cream for dessert, so it’s hard not to give some of that ice cream to our pet. This is where we can get into trouble.
According to research conducted for Royal Canin in May of 2019, feeding your dog just 1 donut is the equivalent of 192 calories and represents 14% of your dog’s daily recommended limit. An ice cream cone is 284 calories and represents 27% of your dog’s daily limit. What about a slice of pizza? Research shows that 1 slice is the equivalent of 285 calories and is also 27% of your dog’s daily limit. Can you guess the number of calories contained in an All-American Beef Hamburger? A WHOPPING 660 calories and 63% of your dog’s daily limit! How about Chinese take-out? Believe it or not; 2184 calories and 206% of your dog’s daily recommend limit!
It’s easy to see how we can quickly “overfeed” our pets. So, what can we do to reduce the likelihood that we’ll continue some of OUR bad habits (out of love, of course) when feeding our pets? Here are some simple solutions to train ourselves to “lighten” the caloric load on our pets!
- First, consider using a slightly smaller bowl to feed your pet with. When we put the same amount of food into a slightly smaller bowl, it gives the illusion of feeding more food to our pet, which is good for our mental health!
- If you are currently “free feeding” your pet and allowing them to eat whatever they want, whenever they want – consider feeding a measured portion. Consult the label instructions and/or your veterinarian for the ideal amount of food to feed each day. Depending on the type of food you’re feeding, this amount may be slightly less than what you’re currently feeding.
- Pre-measure your pet’s daily food and divide it over the number of feedings for the day. When trying to “get fit”, it is sometimes helpful to feed smaller portions more frequently. If you normally feed twice daily, consider dividing your pet’s daily ration into three meals if your schedule allows for it.
- If your pet devours its food immediately, you might investigate a “food puzzle” and offer your pet at least one meal using the food puzzle. This has the benefit of slowing them down when eating, and the benefit of providing mental and physical stimulation at the same time.
- And being the loving pet parents we are, we HAVE to factor in some treats! We need to investigate some low-cal type treats to aid in our goal of “Fido” and “Fluffy” becoming more fit. For dogs, cooked carrots and green beans are sometimes very tasty alternatives to ice cream and pizza! For cats, look for high protein or high fiber alternatives. But there are other treats as well; many commercially prepared. If you have a pet with an underlying medical condition like liver, kidney, or heart disease; consult with your veterinarian first. Whichever treat(s) you choose, be careful to factor these treats to your pet’s overall caloric intake.
- Lastly, remember to monitor your pet’s success by doing once weekly “weigh-ins”! Similar to programs used by organizations like Weight Watchers; checking your weight too often can be deceiving (and sometimes defeating) but checking your pet’s weight on a regular schedule can be valuable and help to achieve long-term success.
Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day and getting “fit” takes time. Slow and steady ALWAYS wins the race. Good Luck to you and your pet! Feel free to contact us if we can help in any “weigh”!