Food is often the language of love, especially with our pets. Resisting feeding your adoring furry friend that last piece of chicken, or one more cookie to reward them for staying quiet while you attend endless Zoom work calls, can be extremely difficult. However, there can be too much of a good thing, particularly when it comes to your pet’s weight. In fact, looks can be deceiving, and pet parents are often unaware that their furry pals are actually overweight. Pet obesity has become an epidemic, with more than 50% of U.S. cats and dogs overweight or obese. We never seem to have enough time with our pets, yet excess weight can decrease your pet’s life span by two years or more, and overweight pets are more at risk for other health issues, including high blood pressure, lung and heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes, arthritis, and some cancers. Managing your pet’s weight is a lifelong endeavor, and our Holland Lake Animal Hospital veterinary team wants to ensure your pets thrive into their grey muzzle years by sharing these four tips to help you manage your pet’s weight.
#1: Exercise your pet daily
Finding the time for daily exercise can be challenging for ourselves, let alone our pets. However, regular physical activity or exercise is key to ensure your pet maintains a healthy weight—plus, daily exercise is the perfect way to spend time with your pet and strengthen your bond. Short, frequent walks can make a difference in your pet’s overall health.
Before starting any exercise program with your pet, schedule a wellness exam with our Holland Lake Animal Hospital team to ensure your pet does not have any problems, including joint pain, that could make exercise challenging. Always start slowly with any pet exercise program, whether or not your ambition is to run a marathon with your four-legged friend. If your lazy pooch or sleepy feline considers cuddling on the couch an athletic event, you may need a more creative exercise approach to get them moving. Your pet can burn calories with daily Indoor activities including:
- Playing tug-of-war with a rope or toy
- Playing fetch with soft toys that will not damage any household items
- Hiding small portions of your pet’s food or treats throughout the house
- Providing cat toys, such as feather wands, that promote stalking behavior
#2: Monitor your pet’s weight and body condition score
Like humans, each pet’s breed and species has varying factors to determine their healthy weight range, including activity level, climate, and genetic factors. During your pet’s veterinary visits, they will be weighed and assigned a body condition score (BCS) that is recorded in their medical record. The BCS chart can be also used at home to evaluate your pet’s weight in between veterinary visits. As a general rule, you should be able to feel your pet’s ribs, but not be able to see them, or have to search for them, if your pet is at an appropriate weight.
#3: Replace some pet treats with praise
Treats are a great training tool and an easy way to communicate to our pets that we love them and are happy with their behavior. However, too many treats, including table scraps, are often the culprit for overweight or obese pets. Moderation is key—treats should be no more than 10% of your pet’s total daily calories to avoid weight gain. Verbal praise, hugs, and cuddles are great replacements for food treats, and will communicate as effectively to your pet. In addition to reducing the amount of treats, try incorporating the following:
- Break treats into smaller pieces to make them last longer.
- Place treats in a food puzzle or ball to encourage your pet to burn energy to retrieve them.
- Place pets in their crate or in a different room during family meals to discourage begging, and reduce the temptation to feed pets table scraps.
- Feed fresh, unseasoned vegetables, such as carrots or green beans, as treats.
#4: Feed your pet a high quality diet
Feeding your pet a high quality commercial pet food will ensure they receive all the necessary nutrients to maintain their overall health and weight. High quality pet foods should always meet the Association of the American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) standards, and should be labeled as complete and balanced for your dog or cat’s life stage. AAFCO-approved pet food always is labeled with feeding frequency and amount recommendations that will ensure your pet receives the proper nutrients for weight maintenance, although you should consult with our veterinarian whether the package feeding guide should be adjusted based on your pet’s lifestyle and specific health needs. Our Holland Lake Animal Hospital online pharmacy contains a variety of pet foods and treats that meet AAFCO standards.
If you have any questions about your pet’s weight, or need help choosing the right food for your pet’s lifestyle, call our office to schedule an appointment.