Pet obesity has been on the rise in the past ten years. With many pet owners working from home, overfeeding has become more likely while exercising has become more difficult. If your pet is overweight, it can be problematic for your four-legged family member’s health.
So what is the best way to get your overweight pet to lose weight?
Determine That Your Pet Is Overweight
The first step to treating pet obesity is to determine whether or not your pet is genuinely overweight. Some pets may just be on the larger side. You can check yourself to see if your pet is overweight by feeling for your pet’s ribs. If you can feel them with a layer of some fat, then your pet may be fine. If you can’t feel your pet’s ribs easily, then they may be overweight.
Confirm with your vet that your pet is overweight. Your vet can also offer advice on how to help your pet lose weight.
Put Your Pet on a Diet
Just like with humans, diet plays a major role in weight loss and management. In pets, up to 70% of weight loss is in the diet. Pet owners need to manage their pets’ caloric intake. You may need to check with your vet to determine the optimal daily calorie intake for your specific pet based on its size, current weight, breed, and activity level.
Choose Quality Food For Your Pet
Every animal is different, and you need to consult with your vet to develop a meal plan that is best suited for your pet.
While there isn’t one particular food or brand that is the best for weight loss, there are many factors you can consider when feeding your dog:
- Dietary protein, which requires a lot of energy to break down and builds muscle.
- Vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids, which help your pet get the nutrients they need while eating fewer calories.
- High fiber content, which offers more volume and keeps your pet full for longer.
General guidelines for a cat’s diet:
- Choose a diet rich in protein, which cats need for a healthy cardiovascular and reproductive system.
- Select canned food over kibble. Kibble is lower in protein and water, while higher in carbohydrates.
- Read labels on cat food. Look for a statement from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) stating that the food is complete and balanced, and meets cats’ nutritional requirements.
Break up Your Pet’s Meals
If you have to feed your pet less, then it may be a good idea to break up their meals into multiple smaller meals. By breaking up the total amount of food into several smaller meals, your pet may not feel as hungry throughout the rest of the day.
Don’t Give Your Pet as Many Treats
Treats may not seem like much, but they can add up when it comes to the number of calories your pet is consuming. You don’t need to cut out treats altogether, especially since your pet may deserve them! But it’s important to be aware of how many calories are in each one and to factor that into your overall calorie count for your pet.
Increase Your Pet’s Exercise Gradually
If your pet is used to not getting a lot of exercise, it’s important not to suddenly increase it by a lot. Just like with humans, increasing the amount of exercise by too much too quickly isn’t a good idea. For dogs, walking is a great way to get exercise. If a dog currently doesn’t get any exercise, then start by going for short walks. Then, as your dog gets used to the exercise, you can gradually increase the amount of time spent exercising. The same goes for cats and any other pet getting exercise.
Ideas for exercising your dog:
- Take a hike or a less-strenuous stroll, depending on your dog’s fitness level.
- Play catch.
- Visit a nearby dog park.
- Swim with your dog if they are able.
- Participate in trick training, tug-of-war, or blow bubbles for your dog to chase (particularly for a rainy day).
Ideas for exercising your cat:
- Play with a laser pointer.
- Give your cat toys to play with, like a ball for them to chase.
- Place treats in different areas of a cat tower, which encourages your cat to stay mobile.
- Take your cat outside.