Is your pet overweight? Pets have the same tendency to gain weight (and consequences) that humans do. Here are some simple tricks to incorporate better health into your pet’s life.
Is Your Pet Overweight?
- First, place the palm of your hand on the side of your pet's rib cage and press gently.
- If you feel your pet's ribs with this amount of pressure, it probably weighs the right amount.
- If you have to push harder to feel the ribs, your pet is overweight.
It’s best to address the extra weight as soon as possible, as overweight dogs and cats may be more susceptible to diabetes—which may lead to more medical complications, expense for the owner, and discomfort for the pet.
- It's essential to set a strict diet. The type of food is important, as well as the amount served each day. Only serve a set amount daily, based on your pet's weight and type. Consult with your vet. S/he can tell you what kind of food to get, as well as how much the particular pet should be getting, initially for safe weight loss (too little food can also cause complications) and then how much to maintain the ideal weight.
- For overweight pets, consider low-calorie dry food and cut out the wet food. Also, don’t leave food out all day for pets to snack on. There are several types of low-calorie foods available at pet supply stores and at the vets. Get suggestions from the vet as to what type of food is best for one’s own pet, as health issues vary, and it can also depend on age.
- If you’re introducing a new diet to your pet, do it gradually. Begin by mixing one part of the new food with three parts old food at each meal. After a few days mix to equal amounts of new and old food. Next, do three parts new food, one part old food.
- Table scraps are infamous for packing on unwanted pounds. Pet’s regular meals should be designed to give them all the calories they need; the extra snacks at your kitchen table aren’t necessary.
- If you give your pet a regular treat, however, switch to a tasty, health alternative. For example, many dogs like crunchy raw vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, and green beans. (If digestion is an issue, ice-cubes are crunchy and can act as a treat as well.)
- For dogs, start slow and work your way up to a faster pace or longer distance so your pet can build endurance. Always provide plenty of water before and after a walk. Dogs can’t cool off by sweating because they don’t have the glands, so it’s important, especially in the heat, to keep them hydrated. An ideal route for you and your pup is one where you can walk on a path or sidewalk and the dog can walk on grass. Different breeds of dogs are more disposed to be active. Small dogs and toy breeds won’t be able to keep up; where as any medium to large breed can be conditioned for walking.
- For cats, it's also important to exercise a bit. Older cats naturally tend to sleep more, which reduces the amount of play time, and can lead to obesity. Or, if a young cat likes to snack a lot, the same symptoms occur—they become more lethargic and don’t exercise off the extra calories. Try to set aside some time to interact with the cat, and gradually introduce more play time. Get him/her interested in playing. Find some toy that s/he especially likes—balls, sticks with felt strips on the end, cat “fishing poles” with a bit of rag on the end, or the toys that have a ball that rolls in a circular track that the cat can bat.
- Remember, when starting a diet or exercise plan of any sort, it’s always a good idea to contact your vet.