We love our pets, big or small. A few extra pounds? That’s just more to love! But it’s actually very unhealthy to have fat cats and pudgy pups. Obesity has become a big health problem in the U.S. for humans, to be sure, but also for dogs and cats. In fact, studies show that 60 percent dogs and cats in this country are classified as overweight or obese.
To put this in perspective, just one extra pound on a small dog is like 10 to 15 pounds for us. For larger dogs, one pound is like an extra five pounds for us. And extra weight can lead to a whole host of problems including joint problems, diseases like diabetes mellitus, respiratory issues, and even decreased life span, according to the AVMA. They report the lifespan of overweight dogs is up to 2 ½ years shorter, on average.
Even five pounds above your dog’s ideal weight can put him at risk for developing some serious medical conditions like:
● Joint issues
● Type 2 Diabetes
● Respiratory and Heart disease
● Kidney disease
● Chronic inflammation
● Many forms of cancer
The bottom line about pet obesity is: you have an unhealthy pet, high medical bills, and often a reduced life span for your fur baby.
There are many things that can contribute to overweight dogs and overweight cats:
1. Genetics – Some dog breeds have a genetic tendency towards obesity, such as Golden Retrievers, Cocker Spaniels, Dachshunds, Beagles, Labs, and others.
2. Neutering – Pets that are neutered tend to form more fat cells, which slows their metabolism, contributing to weight gain.
3. Age – Older dogs and cats are less active, have less energy, and need fewer calories.
They have different nutrition requirements than when they were younger.
4. Children at Home – Kids in the house may be providing extra “snacks” when they either spill their food or purposely feed their pet the food THEY don’t want to eat!
5. Exercise – Many pets simply don’t get the exercise they need to burn off calories and ensure a healthy overall life.
6. Overfeeding and over-treating – Don’t mistake treats with love. Show your pet other
ways you love and appreciate them.
So, if you have a pudgy pet, what can you do? To help them lose weight, the formula is simple:
Fewer calories in + more calories out = weight loss.
Before starting a diet, you should always consult with your veterinarian because you want to make sure there’s no underlying medical condition causing the weight gain.
Some things you should know about FOOD when it comes to obesity in dogs and obesity in cats:
● If they just need to lose some weight, you don’t necessarily need a prescription diet. You just need a diet that’s lower in protein and fat, and preferably higher in fiber. For instance, if your pet has only gained a few pounds, and you’re feeding him good, healthy nutrition, you can probably just offer less of it.
● If not, it’s a good idea to get them on better quality nutrition – like pawTree. Think of it like this, you wouldn’t feed your kids McDonald’s every day – their main nutrition should be healthier. Same for your pets.
● If you switch their food, again, switch to a lower protein, lower fat and higher fiber diet.
● Allow five to seven days to transition to the new food, each day feeding less and less of the old food until they’re 100% on the new food.
● When feeding them, if they act like they are still hungry, add some canned pumpkin to their bowl – pumpkin is fiber and will help them feel full.
● If you are FREE feeding, STOP. Put down the bowl for 20 minutes and then pick it up.
Don’t let them graze all day out of boredom. No self-feeders! You can also use food puzzles to slow down their eating.
● If you have multi-pet households, try and feed them separately and make sure the overweight pet doesn’t eat the other pet’s food.
Now that we’ve covered food, what about TREATS?
● You can still give them treats, just make better treat choices.
● Our pawTreats are Freeze-Dried or Dry-Roasted meat treats. For example, we have one called, FD Chicken, Apples & Kale, and that’s ALL that’s in them.
● We also have treats you can bake at home. You can make them whatever size you want, even really small ones.
● Treats should not exceed 10% of your pet’s diet, and probably less when they are trying to lose weight.
● Just feed them better, nutritious treats.
What about exercise?
● Help them to move more.
● Use toys, balls, laser pointers, anything that they are interested in enough to chase
● Take them for walks – fast walks. Or to the park to run around and play.
Let me give you an example of my dog Coco.
I was working for a pet food company and brought Coco with me to work every day. She’d leave my office and wander the halls – I didn’t realize she was working my colleagues for treats! Needless to say, she gained a lot of weight. I took her on walks three times a day, fed her healthy food with no over-treating, and stopped at the vet’s office weekly to weigh her.
This really can work, and it’s not that hard!
Remember, our pets add SO much to our lives and we want them with us as long as possible.
Pet obesity awareness is important for any responsible pet owner.
You can help your beloved pet to lose weight and give them a better quality life. Avoiding obesity in your pet starts with healthy eating and exercise. We can help you incorporate a pet customized nutrition plan into your daily routine that really works for overweight pets. It’s not a strict pet diet; rather, it’s a lifestyle change!