Many cat and dog owners don’t realize that a round belly on their furry loved ones can lead to serious health consequences. Approximately 34% to 59%of dogs and 25% to 63% of cats in the U.S. are on the chubby side. Obesity (more than 20 percent over their ideal weight) is associated with serious health implications such as arthritis, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and musculoskeletal disease.
To help your cat or dog achieve the healthiest weight and best quality of life, follow these recommended steps:
1. Know your pet’s ideal body weight. Dogs and cats come in different sizes and shapes, but your primary care veterinarian should be able to help you determine, and visualize, the best weight for your pet’s health.
2. Address underlying health issues. While most pets become obese because they eat too much and exercise too little, some become obese because of other problems like a hormone disorder or orthopedic disorders such as hip dysplasia that make movement and getting exercise painful. These problems should be addressed as well.
3. Make sure your pet is on the correct diet. Your primary care veterinarian can recommend a specific food to meet the nutrition and weight loss goals of your pet.
4. Watch portions. When feeding, be sure to follow the portion size recommended by your primary care veterinarian.
5. Switch to low-cal treats. Food doesn’t equal love, but occasionally you’ll want to give Fido or Fluffy a treat. Try feeding your dog healthy snacks like pieces of carrots, apples or green beans. Water from canned tuna fish works well as a treat for kitties. But never feed your dog or cat onions, garlic, avocados, grapes, raisins, and the cores or pits of any fruit including peaches, plums and persimmons (the pits could get lodged in your pet’s intestines).
6. Eliminate table scraps. Though they may give you sad eyes, pretty faces, sweet meows or aggressively paw at you, avoid feeding your cat or dog table scraps. Feeding a dice-sized cheese cube to a 20-lb. dog is the caloric equivalent of a woman eating one and half burgers. Yowza! Check out this treat translater to see how other human goodies stack up.
7. Reward with non-food items. Instead of using food as a reward for good behavior, give your furry friend a new toy, catnip, an enjoyable brushing, or extra playtime or petting.
8. Load up on exercise. Make sure your walks and playtime provide regular and sufficient exercise for your cat or dog.
9. Don’t skimp on check-ups. Your primary care veterinarian is the best person to help you develop a healthier lifestyle for your pet and keep tabs on your dog or cat’s optimum weight.