7 Surprising Ways To Help Your Pet Lose Weight (And Why It’s Important)
It’s the responsibility of each of us to help our lowcountry pets maintain a healthy weight. Just as you’d never walk your dog around downtown Beaufort without a collar and leash or allow them to eat only pizza and ice cream (which many dogs would LOVE!), it’s up to pet owners to feed healthy, nutritious foods and treats and exercise daily. By using these seven simple suggestions and consulting our veterinarians at Animal Medical Center, you’ll be on your way to your pet’s best – and healthiest – year yet!
1. Calculate Calories
If you don’t know how many calories your pet needs each day, you don’t know how much to feed. And don’t think you can trust the bag; feeding guides are formulated for adult, un-spayed or un-neutered active dogs and cats. That means if you have an older, spayed or neutered indoor lap potato you’re probably feeding 20% to 30% too much if you follow the food’s instructions. Instead, ask our animal hospital veterinarians to calculate the proper number of calories your pet needs each day.
2. Measure Meals
A pet parent’s single greatest tool in the fight against excess weight is a measuring cup. Too many pet owners simply fill the bowl or “guesstimate” how much they’re feeding. Even worse, some pets, especially cats, are fed an “all-day buffet” that results from the “just keep the bowl full” feeding method. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention has completed studies to show that feeding as few as 10 extra tiny kibbles of food per day can add up to a pound of weight gain per year in indoor cats and small dogs.
3. Tactical Treating
If you’re going to give your pets extra goodies, make ‘em count. Too many pet treats are what I call “calorie grenades” laden with sugar and fat blowing up our pet’s waistlines and destroying their health. Choose low-calorie, no-sugar goodies that provide a health benefit. I like single ingredient treats such as sweet potato, salmon, and blueberry bites or functional treats that provide a bonus such as helping to keep teeth clean or promote mobility. Whatever treats you give, be sure to count those additional calories. Many pet owners feed the proper amount of food but sabotage their efforts by adding one or two snacks throughout the day. As few as 30 extra calories per day means your pet gains over three pounds in a year.
Better yet, dogs don’t do division. Dr Wreden at Animal Medical Center of the Lowcountry suggests breaking treats into little bitty pieces and divvying them out whenever your pet earns it. Be cautious of “guilt-treating” – the practice of giving your pet a treat because you feel guilty leaving them home alone. Instead, use treats only as a reward for good behavior. Pets (and people) need to learn to earn extra goodies.
***Inside AMC: Dr Guilloud’s furry trio earns their treats by trotting through TWO long daily walks; morning and evening. The entire pack is always all-smiles!
4. Vital Veggies
As an addition to packaged treats, Animal Medical Center suggests offering baby carrots, green beans, celery, broccoli, cucumbers, sliced apples and bananas or ice cubes. These naturally nutritious tasty tidbits are a healthy option for many dogs. For cats, try a flake of salmon or tuna when you’re feeling generous.
5. Hustle for Health
When it comes to living a long, pain-and disease-free life, research proves our most powerful partner is daily exercise. Dr Cifranick at Animal Medical Center West is an exercise enthusiast and advises that the health benefits of walking with your pet extend to both ends of the leash! For dogs, as little as 20 to 30-minutes of brisk walking is all it takes to boost immune function, improve cardiovascular health and reduce many behavioral problems. For cats, try playing with a laser pointer, remote-controlled toy or ball of paper for 5 to 15 minutes each day.
6. Smart Supplements
A couple of supplements may help keep your pet (and you) fit and trim. Almost every dog, cat and person can benefit from taking a daily omega-3 fatty acid supplement. These powerful fish oils pack a potent anti-oxidant punch that has been proven to help prevent and treat numerous diseases. In addition, they may help ease achy joints and perhaps encourage weight loss. Ask our veterinarians at our Beaufort, SC Animal Medical Centers if supplements make sense for your pet’s condition.
7. Cut Down the Carbs
Most dogs and cats don’t need a high-carbohydrate diet, yet many diets contain 60% or more carbohydrates when you analyze the food labels. Our pet doctors prefer low- or no-grain options with a protein source as the first ingredient, especially for cats needing to slim down. As a general rule, our veterinarians recommend trying a higher protein / low carb diet first for weight loss in overweight pets – but please be sure to check with Dr Guilloud, Dr Wreden or Dr Cifranick before making any diet changes. Pets with certain conditions, such as kidney failure, may do better on a different type of diet.
*Information from Pet Health Network http://www.pethealthnetwork.com/ – one of our favorite Education destinations for pet owners!