Pet obesity is a growing epidemic in our dogs and cats. It is estimated that over 50 percent of pets are overweight or obese! Here are a few tips for assessing your pet’s body condition, and for helping him shed a few pounds.
- To assess your pet’s body condition, look down at her from above. You should see a waistline, like an hourglass. Also, when you feel over her chest, you should just be able to make out the ribs. If her body goes straight back from shoulders to rump without an indentation behind the ribs, or she’s looking like a pear, or you can’t feel the ribs at all, it’s time to lose some weight. Take a look at the Body Condition Score chart. On a scale of 1 to 5, we consider 3 to be normal.
- Exercise, exercise, exercise! For dogs, a good 20-minute walk per day will burn a lot of calories. For cats, vertical exercise burns more calories than horizontal exercise, so try getting a cat tree that your cat can climb or jump onto.
- Diet and nutrition are SO important!
- Cats are carnivores, plain and simple. They need to eat the Atkins diet – high quality protein, good sources of fat, and little or no carbs. That’s right – limit the carbs. That means cutting back on the dry food, which, by its nature, needs carbs in order to make the kibble. Free feeding dry food is like giving your cat a bag of potato chips and plopping him in front of the television. Portion control is key. Also, as carnivores, cats need to eat meat-based foods, not fish-based. You’ve never seen a cat jump into the lake to catch their lunch. And avoid the cheesy, gravy-laden foods.
- Dogs can tolerate a more varied diet than cats. The key is to cut the calories. Where dogs run into trouble is with the table food, excessive treats, and overfeeding. No more pizza crust and carb-rich pasta. Start with feeding the proper amounts of a good, well-balanced dog food. “Senior” or “light” foods may contain fewer calories. Limit the treats. You can also substitute steamed or raw vegetables for some of the dog food to help limit calorie intake.
- In some instances, special prescription weight loss diets may be prescribed by your vet to help with the process.
- Make sure there’s not a medical reason why your pet is overweight. Some conditions, like hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease, can cause your pet to put on weight. It’s important to speak with your vet prior to starting any weight loss regimen to make sure there’s not an underlying health issue.
Weight loss can be just as challenging in dogs and cats as it is in people. But the same principles apply: eat healthy, exercise, and be patient and persistent! Here’s to our happy, fit dogs and cats!