Obesity is a national problem that affects not only people, but our pets too. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, over half U.S. cats and dogs were deemed overweight or obese during the past 10 years—that’s a lot of unnecessary weight. We all know that a healthy weight is a cornerstone to overall well-being, but did you know that pet obesity is strongly linked to many conditions, including diabetes and other endocrine diseases, joint problems, and respiratory issues? You may think your four-legged friend looks cute with a few extra pounds, but they could be detrimental to their health. Here are five ways pet owners can keep obesity in check.
#1: Practice portion control
The chief cause of pet obesity is overfeeding. Given the opportunity, most dogs and cats will eat whatever is put in front of them, regardless of the quantity, so portion control is essential in treating and preventing weight gain. Like people, pets burn a set amount of calories each day based on a variety of factors such as age, gender, reproductive status, and activity level. The basics are simple—when the amount of calories consumed outnumber the calories burned, that extra energy is stored as fat. Your Westerville Veterinary Clinic veterinarian will help you determine how many calories your pet needs to eat each day, which can be converted into cups based on the calorie content of your pet food. Since most of our furry friends are substantially smaller than people, you should note how sensitive they are to excess calories. For perspective, feeding a 20-pound dog one ounce of cheese is the equivalent of an average-size woman consuming one and a half hamburgers—an entire meal.
#2: Get your pet moving everyday
It’s no secret that exercise is a fundamental part of any weight-loss program, and it’s a great way for you and your pet to spend some quality time together, too. Exercising helps burn calories, and keeps muscles lean, and joints resilient. Not to mention, regular exercise gives a boost of feel-good endorphins that leave you—and your pet—feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. If portion control is considered a pillar of weight management, consider daily activity a pillar of overall well-being—something that shouldn’t be left out. Whether you decide to engage in a laser-pointing game, take up agility training, or head out for a simple stroll, get out there and get active with your pet everyday. If you are considering a new activity with your pet, you must first consult with your veterinarian and our veterinary team.
#3: Rethink how you give treats
Treats are a delightful way for owners to show their affection and bond with their pets. It’s also a $6.7 billion market. From biscuits, to training treats, to rawhides, and everything in between, stores are brimming with pet treat options that can be hard to resist. Who doesn’t love to see their pet become ecstatic when they hear their favorite treat bag rattling? At Westerville Veterinary Clinic, we love treats, but in moderation. By definition, a treat is a delight that gives great pleasure, but is out of the ordinary, and not something given multiple times a day for no reason. Keep in mind that many commercial dog treats pack up to 100 calories per biscuit—about one-quarter of a small dog’s total daily calorie requirement. Rethink your treat game by opting for smaller treats, giving them less often, and switching some out for healthier snacks like apple slices or green beans.
#4: Perform periodic assessments
Keeping tabs on your pet’s weight goals helps you take accountability for their progress. After all, our pets completely depend on us to help them maintain a healthy weight. Every few weeks, or as directed by your Westerville veterinarian, weigh your pet, and perform a brief body condition assessment. Several helpful guides like this one are available from the American Animal Hospital Association. In general, you should be able to palpate (i.e., feel) your pet’s ribs without excess fat, and the waist should be easily defined. Write down your findings and note any trends, such as whether you notice a weight loss or a gain.
#5: Schedule an appointment with your Westerville veterinarian
Managing your pet’s weight isn’t always easy, and many pet owners become frustrated. But, we are here to help. Regular veterinary care is essential in any weight loss plan, not only to help determine your pet’s individual nutritional and exercise needs, but also to address any underlying health concerns that may contribute to their progress. If your pet isn’t overweight, our veterinary team can help keep them that way.
With our Platinum Health Plan, you can put your pet’s weight worries behind you. We offer completely free exams and consultations, among many other benefits, making managing your furry companion’s health and weight a breeze. Contact our Westerville Veterinary Clinic team for more information, or to set up an appointment.