Pet Obesity and Weight Loss
With the way this North Dakota winter has been, a lot of our canine and feline family members probably haven’t gotten as much exercise as they normally do; some have maybe even put on a little winter weight. Unfortunately, it’s been shown that obese dogs and cats don’t tend to live as long as fit dogs and cats and that they are more susceptible to illnesses like arthritis and diabetes. Making small changes in your pet’s daily routine may help prevent these diseases and aid in increasing your pet’s lifespan.
Just as you shouldn’t begin a diet or exercise program without consulting your family physician, we recommend an assessment with your pet’s Veterinarian prior to starting a special diet or exercise program. At this assessment, the Veterinarian will be able to tell you how overweight your pet is, what their ideal weight should be, recommended daily caloric intake and if they suspect any medical conditions that could be causing the weight gain (such as thyroid disease, etc.). If it is determined by Veterinarian that he/she is in need of weight loss, there are several steps you can take that will help them to reach their weight goal.
First and foremost, the only way to begin is to start where you are at. Step one is to determine how much and what exactly you are feeding in a day and how much exercise the pet is currently getting. Do you measure their food? If not, now is a great time to start! Do they get treats from other members of the family throughout the day and how many treats do they collect? Do they have a fetch date with the kids each evening or do they only go out to go to the bathroom? Gathering this information will help you find the place to begin.
From here most people know the obvious recommendation- decrease caloric intake and increase exercise frequency. This is sometimes easier said than done as most people don’t have the time in their busy schedules to take their dog on a walk twice daily and it can be difficult to exercise a cat. For dogs, a daily walk lasting at least 20-30 minutes and allowing fewer stops for sniffing to encourage more of a “brisk” pace can burn more calories. Moving your pet’s food bowl upstairs/downstairs and changing the location each time adds a game element to feeding. A company called Doc and Phoebe created small mice to put your cat’s daily allotted food into for hide and seek around the house. Check out the website at the bottom of this article for more information.
Any toy that your pet wants to play with such as a ball, a squeaky toy, rope, etc. can be thrown for fetch (even with cats). Training to do tricks can be fun for dogs AND cats, and some of their daily allotted food intake can be used as a treat (just make sure to subtract that from what you put in the bowl). Laser pointers are great for getting pets up and moving. Some thing as inexpensive as blowing bubbles may work to get your cat up and running around. Get creative! You may have to try a few things before you find something that works.
In regards to food, your Veterinarian can let you know how many calories your pet can get within a day. This INCLUDES treats and human food. Canine and feline calories are measured by the kilocalorie or kcal. The average dog or cat treat has anywhere from 10-30 kcal/biscuit. That being said, when you feed your dog 1 once of cheddar cheese, you are feeding them 115 kcal in one treat. Biscuits and low-cal treat options such as green beans, apples or carrots are preferable and only contain 9-15 kcal/ounce. Using these treats over cheese and deli meats could save your dog from hundreds of excess calories. See the links below for more information on kcal values of the most commonly fed treats/human foods given to pets.
Always remember, you are your pet’s biggest advocate and getting them to a healthy weight is one of the easiest steps you can take toward keeping them in good health. For further information on some of the subjects discussed in this article, see the links below. Always contact your Veterinarian with any nutrition or exercise questions.
Cassi Remboldt, LVT
Doc and Phoebe Cat Feeder Toys:
Caloric Values of Treats/Human Food: