We love our pets, but sometimes we confuse food with love. Dogs and cats are just like us in the way they love high calorie, high fat treats. Unfortunately, the same rules apply to dogs and cats as to people. If you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight.
It has been proven that being overweight significantly increases risk of diabetes, kidney disease, arthritis, GI disorders, and many other health problems.
Here are some tips on how to prevent weight gain in your pet:
1) Count Calories
All foods have different calories per cup/serving. Make sure you know how many calories your pet needs in a day, and how many calories you are actually giving them. This includes their regular dry and canned food, treats, snacks, “human” foods, and even that occasional drive-thru TimBit.
2) Balanced Diet
Even if you are giving your pet the perfect number of calories, if these calories are not balanced (proper ratio of digestible, good quality protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals), the body will be missing something vital. This commonly causes weight gain.
3) Don’t Starve, and Don’t Overcompensate
The goal for weight loss in most pets is 1 pound per month, or maximum 2% of their body weight per month. If you are cutting back their overall calories too much, your pet can get sick. More commonly, people limit the good/healthy part of their pet’s diet, then overcompensate with high fat or high protein “treats” (this can be tasty but not healthy snacks you buy at the store, or “healthy” additives like coconut oil, hamburger or cheese). That “little” snack of cheese your pet gets every day can be worth 120 calories, and if your 10 pound furry friend is only suppose to have 240 calories per day, that is where his weight gain is coming from! This is also typically why most owners come in saying their overweight pet rarely eats his/her kibble. They are already consuming more than their fair share of daily calories in the unbalanced-but-much-tastier little extras we are giving them.
4) Burn the Extra
Activity is by far the best way to lose additional pounds. By creating a calorie-deficit (the body burns more calories than is eaten in a day), your pet will lose weight the healthy way. Off-leash running (indoors chasing toys for cats or outside for dogs), swimming, or dog sports like Agility and Flyball for an hour or more everyday are the best activities to lose weight. Leash walks are fun, but burn very little calories for large dogs (we believe on average 0.5 calories/kg of body weight per kilometer – so an 80 pound dog would burn approximately 18 calories per km walk. One large MilkBone is 115 calories).
5) Have Patience
This will take time to do correctly. They will plateau. Sometimes not gaining any additional weight is more of a success than seeing the number on the scale go down. Don’t give up!
So, to help your pudgy puppy or fluffy feline, remember…
- Feed your pet well, and limit unhealthy/unbalanced food.
- Small treats for people are BIG treats for furry friends.
- Dogs and cats are smart: No one LOVES the healthy food. Everyone prefers the tasty, high fat/calorie treats. But to be healthy, you have to eat healthy.
- Be active! Burn calories by increasing activity, not by starving your pet.
- Be patient! Good things come to those who wait.
Written by Moncton Animal Hosptial