Got a fat dog or cat?  Me too.  Your vet shaking their finger and getting after you for your pet’s scale number? What’s an owner to do? With winter rolling in, it is natural that our pet’s activity levels will decrease without as much outdoor play.  We must be careful to adjust diets and add indoor activity alternatives to prevent the dreading winter bulge.  Below are helpful hints and information to help you get your pet on the right path to “skinnyville”.
An epidemic of overweight pets is a nation-wide concern, one that we see and talk about every day.  An overweight pet has, on average, a two-year shorter life expectancy than a pet of healthy weight!  This huge difference is due to an increased risk of diabetes, arthritis, heart problems, and other diseases in overweight dogs and cats.  Could your pet be overweight?  Have one of our staff members assess your pet’s body condition today—the first step to fixing a weight problem is knowing your pet has one!
After realizing your pet is overweight, the next step is to commit yourself to his/her health.  The good news is you are the provider of all calories in your dog or cat’s diet.  It is your household’s ability (and responsibility) to control what your pet eats.  The diet and weight loss plan should be discussed with all members of your family; even those who visit regularly should know the rules of your pet’s diet!  With everyone on the same page, your weight loss plan is headed in a successful direction.Next, you must choose a food.  Sometimes, simply decreasing the amount of your pet’s current diet will provide weight loss.  Look at the feeding chart on the food label, and do not exceed this amount daily. Use a measuring cup!  A measuring cup is the easiest, cheapest, and most effective tool in diet plans.  We suggest splitting the recommended ration into two meals per day.  This will be more satisfying to your pet and better for his/her metabolism.  When deciding what amount to feed, remember food companies want to sell you more food.  Oftentimes less than the amount shown on the bag is sufficient.  Start at the low end of the given range based on your pet’s current weight.

If decreasing the amount of the current food isn’t working, then you need to gradually change to a “diet” food.  Iams, Eukanuba, and Science Diet all carry weight loss, light, or restricted calorie foods that can be purchased “over the counter” at most pet stores.  These diets are usually very effective; however, some pets need a prescription, minimum calorie food.  These special diet foods are only available through veterinarians, and can be specifically programmed for your pet.

The most challenging part of weight loss for pet owners is limiting treats for good behavior.  Treats, however, do not have to be eliminated—just monitored.  Replace all the “junk food” with healthy snacks.  Many low calorie and weight loss treats are available at pet stores or veterinary offices.  A list of calories in common pet treats can be found at search word “obesity client handouts”.  Read the product label before you buy any treat to make sure it is specifically designed for weight loss.  Also, break treats into very small bites.  Veggies and fruits are another great diet treat.  Raw baby carrots, green beans, and small pieces of apple are wonderful snacks.  If you are giving any of these treat suggestions, you may need to decrease the amount of food fed daily.  Ask one of our veterinarians about recommendations.

Also, eliminate any canned food or people food from your pet’s diet!  Canned food is more fattening than dry food, as well as much more expensive.  Dry food will also promote cleaner teeth and fresher breath.  Table scraps must be eliminated to see weight loss.  One bite from your plate has calories equivalent to a small dog’s whole dinner!

Exercise should also be part of your pet’s daily routine.  Throwing a ball, taking a walk, or just running around the yard should be done as much as possible.  Make your cat follow you up and down the stairs several times before feeding him/her.  If your pet is not used to exercise, gradually introduce activity to avoid injury.  The more fit your pet becomes, the more activity they will be able to do.  Visit search word “obesity client handout”  for a walking exercise protocol for your dog.

If you feel like you have been following all of your pet’s diet guidelines and the weight is still not coming off, call to schedule a thyroid check.  Low thyroid levels can contribute to obesity and ruin even the best weight-loss plan.

You will not see immediate results, so be patient and persistent!  Remember that one pound for a dog or cat is equal to 5-10 pounds in a human.  Keep a chart to record your pet’s goal weight and to enjoy your pet’s successful progress.  Feel free to talk with one of our staff members about any questions regarding your pet’s diet and health.  Take a few easy steps to help your pet live a longer, healthier, and happier life!