Oct. 10, 2018 is National Pet Obesity Awareness Day – we recommend a cat or dog weight loss plan for obese pets to help address this huge problem in the pet population.
According to a survey by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, more than half of U.S. dogs and cats are overweight or obese. The survey found that more than 50% of American dogs and close to 60% of American cats are either overweight or obese.
When pet parents have dogs or cats that are obese, it can lead to a host of health problems, including:
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Joint injuries
- Cancer (particularly abdominal cancers)
The bottom line is that overweight or obese cats & dogs typically have shorter lives than sleeker, more fit dogs & cats. Even a difference of 5 pounds in a large dog or 1 pound in a smaller pet can significantly impact the health of your dog or cat.
DO YOU NEED A CAT OR DOG WEIGHT LOSS PLAN? HOW TO TELL IF YOUR PET IS OVERWEIGHT
There are several ways to determine if your pet is overweight or obese. Consult with your veterinarian as part of this process. Here are some simple steps pet parents can take to determine where their pets are on the spectrum of fit-overweight-obese.
Tip 1: Check the ribcage
If you run your hands along your pet’s rib cage, you should feel mostly skin and bone. If you can’t find the ribcage or it’s not clearly defined, then you have an overweight pet.
Tip 2: Weigh your pet at the vet hospital
At the beginning of the process, as well as throughout the pet weight loss program, make a point of stopping by your veterinary hospital, and weigh your pet. Log the results at the start of a cat or dog weight loss plan, and throughout the process to see the progress being made.
Tip 3: Watch for obesity by breed
There are simply some breeds of dogs & cats that tend toward obesity. In small dogs, Cairn Terriers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and Dachshunds tend to pack on the pounds. Medium-sized dogs that can end up with a spare tire around their middle are Beagles, Cocker Spaniels & Basset Hounds. In large dogs & giant breeds, Rottweilers, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Newfoundlands & Sant Bernards all tend toward being hefty.
THE TOP ELEMENTS OF A CAT OR DOG WEIGHT LOSS PLAN
Once you’ve determined that you have an overweight or obese pet, it’s time to put your cat or dog weight loss plan into action. Here are some tips on implementing a cat or dog weight loss plan:
Step 1: Portion Control
Don’t starve your pet, but focus on portion control & use a measuring cup to make sure your pet is getting an appropriate amount of food. It’s wise to also consider activity levels. A rowdy, yearling dog that’s dashing all over the place will burn more calories than a senior dog who suffers from achy joints. To determine the correct portions, review the recommendations on the pet food package, consider your pet’s activity levels, and consult with your veterinarian to find the correct portion of food for your pet. Then measure those portions out with a measuring cup rather than guessing.
Step 2: Eliminate “Hidden” Calories
Hidden calories that add to your pet’s waistline include:
- Treats from you or other well-meaning pet lovers
- Begging for food at meal time (and getting some)
For your pet’s well-being, you may need to tell friends, neighbors, dog walkers & passersby to not give your pet any treats. Instead, have them give your pet praise and some pats or chin scratches as a reward.
Step 3: Watch for Hidden Sugars
If they were in the wild, the only place your dog or cat would encounter sugar would be from wild berries or perhaps a honey comb. If you’re an avid label reader for your own food, become an avid label reader for your pet’s food & treats. For the treats in particular, you’ll be amazed to see how much processed sugar is in the average dog treat. To help cut calories, simply switch to a dog treat with little to no sugar in it.
Step 4: Consider Weight Management Pet Food
Some weight management pet foods contain more fiber to help your dog or cat feel fuller while they eat fewer calories. If you’re going to switch to a diet cat or dog food, do so slowly. To avoid stomach upset and diarrhea, wean your pet onto the new weight management food over a period of 2 weeks. The rule of thumb is to give ¼ portion of the new diet with ¾ portion of the old diet for 2-4 days, half and half for 2-4 days, ¾ portion of the new diet with ¼ portion of the old diet for 2-4 days, and then all new diet. Every pet is different, so tailor the diet change to your pet’s needs.
Step 5: Gradually Increase Activity Levels
There are many ways to increase activity levels for your pets, including:
- Increase playtime by just 5 minutes for starters
- Increase walks by an extra block or two, for starters
IF THE CAT OR DOG WEIGHT LOSS PLAN ISN’T WORKING, THERE COULD BE MEDICAL ISSUES
If you’ve been providing a blend of fewer calories coupled with more exercise, and you’re not seeing any results, there could be a medical issue causing your pet to gain weight. This is why it’s so important to involve your veterinarian into a cat or dog weight loss program. Some animals gain weight because of a low thyroid level or because of Cushing’s disease. The best way to rule out medical issues is to have your veterinarian conduct simple blood tests. The results will help you rule out medical conditions as a factor in your pet’s weight gain.
HOW LONG SHOULD A CAT OR DOG WEIGHT LOSS PLAN TAKE TO SEE RESULTS?
The safest, healthiest way to help your pet lose weight is to shoot for gradual weight loss that occurs over several months. Once you’ve helped your pet drop the excess weight, then simply maintain the change with portion control, regulated treats, minimal processed sugars, and increased activity levels.
Putting your pet on a cat or dog weight loss plan could well save their lives, as well as improve their quality of life on a day-to-day basis.
Need a consult on developing a sensible, healthy cat or dog weight loss plan? Contact the caring vets at Mile High Animal Hospital of Aurora, or call us at: 303.693.6484 to schedule a weight management consult.