Obesity in cats and dogs is becoming a major problem and a cause for concern. Surveys have shown that over 40% of America’s pets are overweight. We tend to show affection by lavishing our loved ones with food not considering the damage that can be done. But overfeeding our pets to the point of obesity can cause dangerous physical problems.
In the wild our pets don’t eat every day. They may make a kill, eat enough to assuage their hunger, then bury the rest for future meals. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t feed your pet every day. But if your pet refuses food for a day or 2, it’s normal. The time for concern is when your pet has an existing condition like cancer. Then you should consult your vet.
But before putting your cat or dog on a diet, see your vet and make sure there are no medical contributing factors. Sometimes a medical condition such as a thyroid problem or a metabolic disorder can cause obesity. And arthritic pets suffer more carrying extra weight.
If your overweight pet is a cat, don’t put him on a diet without consulting your veterinarian. Cats can develop Hepatic Lipidosis, a condition caused by sudden reduced calories intake. Your vet should be the one to supervise your cat’s diet.
As pet owners, we have to take responsibility for feeding our pets properly. If your dog has been given a clean bill of health, it’s time to start the diet. Pets should have specific feeding times. Leaving food out all the time contributes to obesity. I feed my dogs twice a day, breaking in two their daily portions. If after 1/2 an hour, they are not interested, I refrigerate and save the food for the next feeding time. Breakfast is between 6-7 A.M. and dinner is between 5-6 P.M.
We love our pets and find their begging looks irresistible. But too many treats or table scraps can contribute to overweight. This doesn’t mean your pet shouldn’t have treats. Just be sure to count them in your pet’s daily calories.
Lack of or too little exercise is another contributing factor. Our pets need stimulation and playtime. Increase exercise if necessary. Interactive activities also create a closer bond with your pet.
If you home cook your pet’s meals, you can control amounts of carbohydrates and fat easily. There are also many high quality prepared pet foods that are low in carbs. My vet suggests feeding 10% less of what you normally give your dog each day. No need to change your dog’s food to a low-calorie or diet food. Sometimes, due to increased carbohydrates in these foods, dogs gain weight.
Keep a record of weight. Weigh your dog before beginning the diet. Then re-weigh in another 2 weeks. If there is no change your dog may still be taking in too many calories. Reduce intake by another 10%. Keeping checking weight every 2 weeks. If your dog has lost weight, continue with the present diet. The diet should be high in protein with some fat, but carbohydrates should be reduced. I have found that feeding my dogs low or no grain kibble along with homemade cooking maintains their weight and good health.
Another way to control weight is to pre-measure the day’s food including any treats you offer. This takes the guess-work out of trying to judge how much to feed. If you home-cook, you can measure out each day’s food allowance and freeze the individual packets. You can take the day’s meal out of the freezer each day to defrost and perhaps warm it a bit.
Older pets and sometimes pets who are overweight have slower metabolisms and may lose weight at a slower rate.
Remind everyone in your household and visitors not to feed your pets any extras.
Always check with your vet before making any changes in your pet’s diet.
Here’s an easy way to check your pet’s weight at home. Of course your pet has to the size you can hold in your arms. First weigh yourself; then pick up your pet and weigh the two of you together. Subtract your weightd and you’re left with your pet’s weight. If your pet is too large to pick up, you’ll still have to weigh him/her at the vet’s office.