Your pet’s New Year resolution
So many of us start of the new year with one resolution: to lose weight. We know how unhealthy excessive weight is, and yet never consider what it does to our pets. The American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that about 40% of all dogs and 50% of all cats are overweight – that’s 28 million dogs and 40 million cats! Fluffy may look fat and happy, but obese pets have more health problems, from cardiac and respiratory issues, and major problems with their joints, to diabetes. So this year, why not make a resolution to help your cat or dog slim down?
What is a healthy weight for your pet?
Various breeds have different normal weights, and it can depend on gender, too. It can be especially hard when we have so many dogs whose exact breed we don’t know. In addition to discussing your pet’s weight with your vet, you can also use these general guidelines to help determine is your dog is overweight.
- Running your hands along your dog’s ribcage, you should be able to palpate the ribs covered by a thin layer of fat. Inability to feel the ribs is a sign of an overweight dog.
- Looking at your dog from the side, you should be able to see the upward tuck of the abdomen. An overweight dog will have very little or no tuck.
- Viewing your dog from above, there should be a moderate narrowing at the waist just past the ribcage. A straight or bulging line from the ribcage to the hips indicates an overweight dog.
It’s similar for cats:
Look down at your cat. You should be able to see a waist when you look down on it from the top, or when you run your hands from its ribs to its hips. Run your hand along its abdomen from its ribs to its pelvis and it should be indented. If you put your hands on the side of its chest, you should be able to feel its ribs without a thick layer of fat over them.
It’s a good goal, but how do we do it?
1. Begin by knowing: For one week, record everything you give your dog or cat: measure dry and canned food, all treats, even table scraps. This can help show you where/when you tend to over-indulge your pet, and ways to cut down. Want to go a step further? Figure out the calories you’re feeding. Add the calories from the dry and/or canned food (found on the packaging) to the calories of the treats. Discuss with your vet you particular pet’s caloric needs, and make the appropriate adjustments.
2. Make adjustments. Not every dog eats the same amount of food. More active dogs, or dogs that spend time outside in the cooler months, need more calories than a more sedate, indoor dog. Older dogs need fewer calories than healthy adult dogs, and puppies generally need more.
3. Limit treats: Often overlooked when considering your pet’s diet, treats can make a big impact on their weight. Those small bites can add up quickly! Ideally, treats should be less than 10% of your dog or cat’s total daily calorie intake. A few tips:
- Break up your treats into the smallest piece you can. Dogs will jump through a hoop for the whole bag of treats and they’ll jump through a hoop for the smallest crumb. They still feel special, and you make the treat last a lot longer.
- Use treats effectively. By only offering them only for good behavior and training, you reduce their caloric intake and reinforce positive behaviors.
- Feed pure, freeze dried meat treats. They are high in protein and have no carbs, ideal for your cat or dog.
- Go with a high protein, low carbohydrate food. Dogs and cats are carnivores, meaning they evolved to use protein and fat for energy. Simple carbohydrates break down to sugars in the digestive system, and sugar converts to fat. Decreasing carbohydrates reduces excess sugar, limiting fat production (and decreasing a most important source of food for cancer cells). Come by and talk with any of our staff about our choice of high protein, low carb foods such as EVO, Fromm grain free, Orijen, and California Natural grain free.
Feeding canned food? There are some great choices for weight loss in canned food. EVO canned cat and dog food is perfect for weight loss as it is 95% meat.
Raw frozen food is gaining in popularity, since it is high in protein, low in carbohydrates, and is closest to their natural diet in the wild.
5. Feed twice a day. Many people leave their pet’s food down all day; it’s easier, but some animals will continuously eat, past the point of satiety. Keeping the meals restricted to two meals not only restricts calorie intake, but gives them the chance to burn some off in between feedings.
6.Use a slow feeder. The brain releases “satiety” hormones that make you feel full about 20 minutes after beginning to eat. Use a Kong Wobbler or the Funkitty Egg-Cersizer instead of a feeding bowl. You place their entire meal in the toy, and, as they play with it, the kibble slowly drops out, a piece or two at a time. In addition to slowing down their feeding, which makes them feel more full with less food, it also gives them exercise, which burns more calories. A slow feeder also helps reduce indigestion and gas.
Reducing your dog or act’s weight is one of the best things you can do for their health. It’ll reduce wear on joints, reduce breathing problems, decreases the strain on their heart, and reduce the chances for diseases such as cancer and diabetes. It’ll also keep your best friend around a lot longer.