Pet Obesity is an Epidemic!
The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) conducted its 2018 survey. The results are in and they found 56% of dogs and 60% of cats overweight or obese. This is very concerning as obesity leads to many health problems. These include heart disease, diabetes, orthopedic issues, and even cancer. How do you know if your pet is overweight? Start by trying to feel their ribs–can you feel them? You should be able to feel a thin layer of fat over the ribs but they should be easily felt. You should also be able to feel the back bone easily. If you have a dog, you should also be able to see they have a waist. When you look from the side you can see the rib cage then it should cut up to the hip. If your dog looks like a box (no cut up to the waist) its fat. Likewise, if you can’t feel the ribs or the back bone ,your pet is overweight.
What can you do about it?
The good news is, you have power to help your pet. Weight loss is based on 2 concepts, quality calories in the correct amount and more physical activity. That is all. Seems simple but many owners have trouble sticking to these changes. For instance, in my practice, we ask owners if they use a measuring cup to measure their pet’s food–most do not. This is very important. Eyeballing a cup of food often leads to overfeeding. Feeding all dry food also leads to overfeeding. Dry food has a very high carbohydrate content and makes weight loss a bit harder. Its ok to feed kibble but reduce it to the low end of the feeding range and be sure to add in fresh cooked meat and fresh veggies. If tolerated, fresh veggies are a great way to bulk of the volume of food and provide wonderful vitamins and minerals. Fresh cooked meat is also a good addition. Most of the time you can reduce the kibble by half and add back in the same volume of fresh cooked meat and vegetables. You can also ask your veterinarian to calculate the number of calories needed for weight loss. This will really help in knowing how much to feed. You will be surprised how your dog will lose weight by reducing the amount of processed food in the correct quantities.
Cats and weight loss
For cats, canned grain free food gets cats to lose weight. Eliminate all dry food. Even better, add in fresh cooked meat (like chicken, turkey or fish.) Eliminating the grains in cat foods gets cats to lose weight. Cats are obligate carnivores meaning they are meant to eat meat almost exclusively. Wet food is much higher in protein, fat and water content and keeps carbs to a minimum. Most cats would need about 4.5-5.5 ounces of canned cat food per day. It is best to check with your veterinarian for exact quantities to feed depending on your cat’s weight, activity level and interest in eating wet food. Some cats do not like wet food. If you have a cat that will not eat wet food, don’t take away the dry food! It could be dangerous. Cats, especially overweight cats, must eat on a regular basis or they can develop liver disease from not eating.
Exercise is important
Activity is SUPER important. For dogs, walking them twice daily up to 30 minutes each walk is crucial. Its good for you and good for your dog. Can you go longer? Of course, if your dog (and you) are able to, that is great. Walking is the best exercise for all dogs as long as they do not have orthopedic or health issues that would restrict them from walking. Never walked your dog? Start by walking 5 minutes, then slowly increase over the weeks to 30 minutes. You will be amazed at how quickly your dog’s muscle develops and how much healthier he will feel. Cats are a bit trickier to add activity but its possible. Move their food to an area of the house where they have to walk a ways to get to it. Spend 30 minutes a day “playing” with your cat. Make them chase a crumpled up piece of paper, a small toy or have them follow you with small treats. Getting cats to run up and down the stairs is also great exercise. Getting your pet active is also a great time for you to connect with your pet.
Weight loss is possible. My clients have been very successful getting their pets to lose weight following these instructions. Its truly up to you. You need to change your lifestyle too. These changes will make a difference for both of you!