Six tips to help manage your pet’s weight
Pet obesity is a real problem in America today, with some studies indicating that up to 60 percent of pets may be overweight or obese. Just like for people, being significantly overweight can cause medical issues which affect a pet’s quality of life and life expectancy. Because you are with your pet every day, you may not notice that they’ve been gaining weight steadily to the point where it has become an actual health problem. Fortunately, you can take a more active role in monitoring and managing your pet’s weight with these six tips.
Assess Your Pet
First of all, you need to assess your pet’s condition to determine if he or she is overweight. Weighing your pet and comparing that weight to the standards for the breed and age is a good starting point. But because every pet is different, there really is no ideal weight, even within breed categories. Many veterinarians recommend feeling your pet’s rib cage. If there seems to be more padding there than you would feel on the back of the average person’s hand, your pet is probably overweight.
Again, there is no single magic number when it comes to determining how many calories a pet needs. However, you do want to be sure that most of the calories your pet consumes come from a quality pet food rather than treats. Keep track of everything you feed your pet during the day and add up the calories. If pet treats or table scraps make up more than 10 percent of the total, you need to cut back on those items.
Adjust Diet as Needed
Pets’ dietary needs change according to age, environment, and medical conditions. For example, if your pet gets fixed, their calorie requirements will decrease dramatically within just a week. If you don’t adjust their diet, your pet may start gaining weight and eventually become obese.
Give Non-Food Treats
People love to give treats to their pets as rewards or to show affection. However, this adds additional calories to the diet that may push the pet over the edge into obesity. It is okay to give the occasional food treat, but you should also consider ways to reward your pet without giving food, such as a thorough petting, an extra walk, or a few minutes of playtime.
While kittens love to play, it’s a lot harder to make an adult cat—especially an overweight one—exercise when it doesn’t want to. However, if you’re dealing with an overweight dog you can definitely help your pet to get more exercise. Start taking longer walks or extra walks, or engage your pet in play such as fetch or tug that will get them moving.
Consult a Veterinarian
If you are not successful in helping your pet to lose weight simply by reducing calories and increasing exercise, there may be an underlying medical condition that needs to be addressed. Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to identify and address your pet’s unique nutritional needs.