Since more than half of the American pet population is overweight or obese, there’s a good chance your furry pal is more fat than fluff. If your pet falls within the 56% of dogs or 60% of cats who are overweight or obese in the U.S., they need help reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. Pets who are carrying extra weight are more prone to developing a host of health issues, including, but not limited to:
- Liver disease
- Skin infections
- Endocrine disorders
- Respiratory difficulties
- High blood pressure
- Cardiac problems
- Decreased life span
- Some cancers
With so many medical problems that can affect your pet, it’s in your best interest and theirs to help them shed those extra pounds and maintain a healthy weight. Follow these five tips to prevent obesity in your pet.
#1: Determine your pet’s body condition score
The saying goes that age is just a number, but so is your pet’s weight. While the number on the scale can be a guiding figure for your pet’s overall health, their body condition score is a more accurate indicator. Like people, pets can fall into a wide weight range based on their body structure, muscle mass, and lifestyle, so weight is not always the best gauge of health.
When determining your pet’s body condition score, follow these charts for cats and dogs. Your pet should have a visible waistline—not rectangular-shaped—with palpable ribs under a light fat covering, and an abdominal tuck instead of a sagging belly. Evaluating your pet’s body condition can be challenging if they’re thick-coated, so place your hands on them and press lightly to feel their ribs, waist, and abdomen. Of course, you can always ask our South Shores Pet Clinic team for help in assigning your pet a body condition score.
#2: Know how much your pet should be eating to maintain a healthy weight
When feeding your pet, do you simply fill up the food dish when it’s empty? Maybe you follow the guidelines on the food bag instead. Allowing your pet unlimited access to food is one of the biggest contributors to obesity, and, unfortunately, the information on the bag isn’t the most accurate. While the guidelines provide a good starting place, a bit more calculation is necessary to feed your furry pal the appropriate amount.
A dog or cat calorie calculator can help you determine how many calories your pet needs each day to lose, gain, or maintain their weight. These calculators will take into consideration your pet’s spay or neuter status, activity, and body condition score, and give you the correct number of calories needed.
#3: Measure the correct amount of food for your pet’s meals
Once you know how many calories your pet should eat each day—and how many of those can be treats (10% of the total daily calories)—use the calorie count on the food bag or can to measure out your pet’s meals. For example, if you’re feeding your 90-pound Labrador retriever food that has 387 calories in each cup and their body condition score is a 6/9, they need 2.75 cups of food per day. Divide your pet’s total amount of calories into two or three meals to ensure they do not go long periods of time without eating and to help promote a healthy metabolism.
#4: Engage in daily exercise with your pet
Exercise and diet go paw-in-paw in maintaining a healthy weight, so get your pet up and moving every day to help them slim down. Cats have a shorter attention span than dogs, so brief bursts of activity are ideal for them. Games that involve a feather wand, laser pointer, or stuffed toy are great ways to encourage your cat to engage in natural stalking and pouncing behaviors. For dogs, off-leash play burns calories and provides plenty of mental enrichment as they sniff exciting, unusual scents not found in their own backyard. Places for off-leash play include fenced-in parks, doggy day cares, and uncrowded dog parks. However, any way you can move with your dog is great, whether it’s a quick jog around the block, a dip in the pool, or a rousing game of fetch played down the hallway.
#5: Ask your South Shores Pet Clinic veterinarian for help managing your pet’s weight
Even after they start a diet and exercise routine, your furry pal may struggle to maintain a healthy weight. Some pets have endocrine disorders, such as hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease, that can make weight loss difficult without treatment. Other pets may need the additional boost offered by a prescription weight-loss diet to see those pounds come off.
Is your furry pal struggling to shed those extra pounds? If so, they may need more help than diet and exercise alone can provide. Contact our South Shores Pet Clinic team to schedule a health evaluation.