This is the time of year when everyone is making resolutions. But should you be setting some goals for your pet as well? While most Americans resolve to lose weight in the new year, many of us don’t realize the extent to which pet obesity is a problem, or know what to do about it. Studies have shown that 44% of dogs and 57% of cats are overweight, with 10% of dogs and 17% of cats being considered obese.
So what should you do if you think your pet has a weight problem? First, visit your vet. The doctor should not only check your pet’s weight, but also take blood and urine samples to ensure your cat or dog doesn’t have a metabolic disorder or thyroid problem. If the vet finds your pet is normal other than his or her weight, it’s time to implement a weight-loss plan. Your vet can help you tailor something to your animal’s specific needs, but below are some general tips to keep in mind.
If you normally practice free feeding at home (meaning food is always available and your pet can eat whenever he wants), the first thing you want to consider is putting your pet on a feeding schedule and ensuring consistent portion control. Just as humans often have trouble determining adequate portion control for ourselves, we tend to have difficulty gauging the appropriate amount of food for our pets. Ask your vet what portion size is ideal.
Cats and dogs are carnivores, and their systems are best equipped to handle diets high in protien and low on carbs. Unfortunately, much of the dry kibble out their contains way too many carbs. Even if the packaging claims it’s balanced nutrition, that’s not always the case. Do your research and switch to higher-protien, lower-carb pet food. And of course, both dog and cat treats are high in carbs as well! Reduce the amount of treats they get, and also switch to something more nutritious.
And just like with humans, exercise is an important part of pet weight loss! Take your dog on longer walks, or add an extra walk to the daily routine. Cats are a little more challenging in this regard, but by adding some interactive toys that will bring out play behaviors, you can get them moving, too!
Want more information? Check out these great resources:
“Obesity in Cats… And What to do About an Overweight Cat” at PetMD.com
“Overweight Dogs” from the ASPCA
“Pet Obesity is On the Rise” by Howard Wolinsky