Our dog and cat are both overweight. I know this isn’t good for their health and I’d like to see them slim down in 2018. Any advice for how to help them lose the weight and get healthier?
Feeling fluffy in Forest West
Dear Feeling Fluffy,
It’s that time of the year, isn’t it? Humans and pets alike are preparing to reevaluate their food and lifestyle choices and vowing to make a change in their health in the next couple of months. It’s a good time to make a change in your own health and in the health of your beloved 4-legged family members.
According to www.petobesityprevention.org an estimated 53.8% of U.S. dogs are overweight and 58.2% of U.S. cats are overweight or obese, so your pets’ plights are (sadly) the norm in our country. Most people don’t even know that their pet is overweight–or they don’t see having an overweight pet as a problem. Did you know that by keeping your pet within their ideal weight range, you can extend their lives by 2 years? That’s huge, given the life expectancy of most pets.
Pet obesity can occur for a number of reasons, but the most common are lack of exercise and taking in too many calories. So, in order to lose weight, (just like humans) pets must eat less and exercise more. Sounds simple, right? Actually, it is because you call the shots in your pets’ lifestyle choices.
A good place to start is to determine your pet’s ideal weights, (which your vet can help with) then formulate a diet plan that works for everyone. A pet’s age and activity level should be taken into consideration when making a diet plan.
One problem is that many pets are fed free-choice, which means food is available 24 hours a day. So, the pet eats whenever it wants. Free-choice feeding is completely unnatural for any mammal. And, (just like humans) a pet will eat when bored, instead of just when hungry. What’s more, free-feeding can contribute to unnatural hormonal changes which can make weight loss even more challenging.
A pet should be fed two to four small portions a day. And the total number of calories for all meals and treats must equal the number of calories desired for weight loss.
If your schedule makes it difficult to follow this strategy, there are timed automatic feeders that can help your pet get the right amount of food at specific times.
It’s also critical to actually measure your pet’s food. Never guess. Use an 8 ounce measuring cup… not a coffee cup or a food scoop. Then be sure to dispense the exact amount of food called for in your calculations.
After your have a handle on your pets’ diets, exercise is the next priority. Start out slow with a daily walk around the block for your dog and gradually build up time and distance as his stamina increases. For your cat, a hearty play session with a feather teaser-toy or a laser pointer is super fun for them and helps them to burn calories and energy.
Most of all, the fact that you love your pets enough to care about their health and well-being is admirable and makes you a “gold star” pet owner indeed. The time spent with your pets on walks and playing with them will greatly enhance their lives, as well as your own. After a couple of months of this new lifestyle, you might find that you and your pets are healthier, happier and ready to take on 2018.
Do you have a question for Tabby? Email her at: deartabby firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pet of the Week
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