Did you know that the obesity epidemic in the United States has also affected our pets? An eye-opening study from the Association for Pet Obesity shows that approximately 60% of cats and 56% of dogs in the U.S. are overweight or obese.
Many people mistakenly believe that our pets being overweight isn't a health concern, or may even think that having a pudgy pooch or humongous kitty is cute. However, animals actually experience many of the same side effects as humans when they aren't at a healthy weight.
Being overweight can cause our pets to become more lethargic, more prone to anxiety, less alert, and aware of their surroundings, and at a greater risk of a whole host of health problems. Left untreated, pet obesity can harm your pet's quality of life and significantly shorten your pet's lifespan.
Are you a chronic overfeeder? Do you give too many treats? Don't worry. By getting a handle on this issue now and scheduling regular wellness checks with your veterinarian, you can ensure your dog or cat lives a long, healthy, and happy life.
Three Easy Strategies for Treating Pet Obesity
Pet obesity can have many different causes; however, the most common reasons for an overweight pet are overeating (or, to be more accurate, overfeeding) and lack of activity. The good news is, both of these problems are well within your control. Here are three easy ways to help your pet shed the unneeded pounds:
Get to Know Your Pet's Needs
Every dog or cat is different and has different health needs. It's hard to manage your pet's overall wellbeing if you don't know the goal or what's within the healthy range for your particular breed.
If you're worried that your pet is overweight, the first step is to visit your veterinarian for a full physical and wellness check. Your vet can tell you the normal weight range for your dog or cat, help you determine the right number of daily calories and feeding schedule, and even recommend a specialty diet if your pet is severely overweight.
Knowledge is power. With this knowledge, you can effectively manage your pet's health instead of guessing what your dog or cat needs to remain healthy.
Track Feeding and Avoid Too Many Treats
It's easy to dump a full can of food in your dog or cat's bowl and assume it's the right amount simply because it's more convenient than saving food for later. It's also easy to give your dog or cat table scraps as you cook for your family, and difficult to deny those big, pleading eyes!
But one or two little scraps often turn into more, and all these extra treats and extra calories add up. The best way to make sure your pet remains within a healthy weight range is to track the calories your pet consumes each day.
That means reading cans and labels to find out how many calories you're actually feeding your pet. Eliminate or at least cut back on treats between regular meal times and choose high-quality treats that are made for animals instead of table scraps. While food from your kitchen won't harm your dog or cat every once in a while, these treats tend to be higher in calories and less likely to have the right balance of nutrients for your pet.
Encourage Activity and Curiosity
Activity can work wonders for your pet. In addition to practicing more careful feeding, an active lifestyle will enhance your pet's overall wellbeing and fight pet obesity. While younger pets don't need any encouragement to be active, as pets age they naturally become less active without your support and encouragement. And even puppies and kittens are more likely to be active when you're involved.
The easiest way to encourage more activity is by your presence. Giving your dog an extra ten minutes on your morning walk or taking a few minutes to play with your cat after dinner is likely all the encouragement your pet will need to burn a few extra calories. These activities are good for your physical and mental health as well. It's a win-win!
If you're truly too busy to spend this kind of time with your pet, or if you're going through a particularly busy season of life, there are plenty of alternatives. Get an automatic ball thrower for your dog, look into doggie daycare options, or hire a kid on your block to take your four-legged friend on a walk. For cat owners, you can scatter some cat-friendly strings and feather toys around your home or install a kitty tower to promote scratching, jumping, and climbing.
Fostering your pet's natural curiosity is another good way to keep your pet alert and active. Try puzzle toys or puzzle feeders to make your pet do some work for a treat. These are a particularly good option for pets who are home alone throughout the workday.
There are lots of ways to help your pet lose weight and remain active. With some planning and creativity, you will come up with ideas that are effective for your pet's unique needs and personality.