Hopefully last week I convinced you how important it is to reverse the trend of overweight pets, both to prevent disease and extend their lives. If you find that your dog or cat (or both!) is a bit on the chubby side here are some helpful tips to get them back on track.
Just like people, if your dog or cat is eating more calories than they need, the fat cells will start to accumulate and they will become overweight pets. Almost all pet foods will list how many calories per cup or can of food; you just need to know where to look. The especially helpful foods will have it right on the bag but unfortunately that isn’t all that common so you usually need to look at the product’s website. It can be found under “feeding guidelines” or “nutritional information” and is listed as Kcal per cup or can.
Now that you have this information you can check in with your veterinarian to see about how many calories per day your pet should be consuming. This caloric requirement is based on your pet’s age, if they have been spayed or neutered, what their current weight is and their lifestyle. A good rule of thumb for cats is around 150-200 calories per day for an average indoor cat. It is not ideal to follow the recommendations on the back of the bag, as these are usually a bit high.
Once you have determined that your pet is eating the correct amount of food the next step is increasing their activity. Get your dog outside for a walk or to run around and play ball, this will help burn calories and they will love spending time with you. In general I am not a huge fan of going jogging with your dog as this puts a lot of stress on their joints and can result in arthritis. You can feed both cats and dogs out of a feeding toy. This requires that they work a little to get their dinner rather than just inhale out of a bowl.
Kitties are famous for sleeping most of the day with a few moments spent eating and using the litter box. Ideally our cats would be eating several small meals a day with some time spent “hunting” for their food. You can mimic this by placing small bowls of food around the house so your cat has to spend the day looking for it. Letting your cat outside is not the answer to maintain their weight. They may lose weight by roaming free outside but there are also countless dangers that are far worse than an extra pound or two.
I hope this helps give you a few ideas to get your pet started on the road to a healthy and lean body condition. Never hesitate to ask your veterinarian questions, we love helping our patients get healthy!
Ashley Gallagher, DVM