More than half the nation’s pets and three-quarters of American adults are considered overweight or obese. Excess weight can lead to crippling arthritis, kidney disease, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and many forms of cancer. But, you and your pet can battle the bulge together and decrease your chances of developing health conditions associated with obesity. Together, you and your pet can get active and healthy. Check out these tips to combat the extra pounds.
- Kick into high gear. With 40 percent of American adults opting to not participate in any physical activity during leisure time, it’s no wonder our pets are sedentary as well. But, if you’re a dog owner, you have a built-in personal exercise buddy to hold you accountable every day. Get in the habit of daily walks, and be sure to switch up the route, distance, and speed to keep things fresh and exciting for you both. If you have a cat, bust out a laser toy, feather wand, or even a crumpled ball of paper to encourage her to get up and move.
- Ditch the bowl. Are you guilty of catering to your cat’s demanding meows, immediately filling her food dish with kibble? Does your dog free-feed all day long? Ditch the food dish and invest in some puzzle feeders instead. Make your pet earn her kibble by utilizing these handy feeding devices, instead of allowing her access to an all-you-can-eat buffet. With a wide variety of feeders available, there is a puzzle for every pet’s cognitive abilities.
- Calculate calories correctly. Have you made the mistake of following the feeding guidelines on your pet’s bag of food? If you’ve followed the directions and your pet is still overweight, it could be because the measuring guidelines on the bag are geared toward adult, active, intact animals, instead of the standard spayed or neutered couch potato. The guidelines are a great place to start, but you usually need to feed less than the recommended amount to keep your pet at an ideal body score. Or, you can ignore the bag’s suggestions completely, and use this formula to calculate your pet’s caloric needs:
- Divide your pet’s weight by 2.2.
- Multiply that number by 30.
- Add 70 to that figure.
This calculation will give you a general idea of how many calories to feed a typical indoor, inactive, spayed or neutered dog or cat. Exact calorie requirements will vary from pet to pet, and, of course, we encourage you to ensure your pet gets regular physical activity, so be sure to always check with us before starting your pet on a diet plan.
- Measure appropriately. So many of us either eyeball our pet’s allotted food or use a drinking cup or other “measuring” device to scoop out a portion of food. Instead, be sure to correctly measure your pet’s food by using an actual measuring cup. A mere 10 extra pieces of kibble a day can add up to some serious additional padding on a small dog or cat over time.
- Treat smarter. Even though it’s nearly impossible to resist those sad puppy eyes watching every bite you take, you must be strong. Your canine companion does not need to taste test every meal you eat. If you can’t bear to watch your pooch’s heart break at realizing there are no scraps left for her, you can cut back on her daily kibble portion and dole out healthy treats. Instead of picking up a bag of “junk food” treats jam-packed with sugar and fat, choose wholesome fresh foods as an alternative:
- Green beans
- Lean turkey or chicken (not the skin!)
In addition to swapping out treats for healthier options, cut back on portion size. While your pet may be able to count, she doesn’t understand fractions. Cut those treats into smaller pieces, and your pet will still be satisfied with her standard number of treats for the day. In the eyes of a pet, a treat is a treat, no matter how small.
Need help formulating a diet plan for your pet? Schedule an appointment for a comprehensive evaluation, including a body score, exercise regimen, and calorie calculation to start the New Year on the right paw.