Noticing weight gain in your pet can sometimes be challenging as we don’t always notice the odd pound or two but, just like with us, losing those extra pounds can be tricky and also like us, becomes more difficult as they age.
In a healthy pet we should be able to feel along their sides and feel their ribs quite easily, they shouldn’t be sticking out but also shouldn’t be buried under a layer of ‘winter warmth’! You should also be able to see their waistline between their ribs and their hips. See the images below which outlines a pet’s Body Fat Index (BFI).
Weight gain can be caused by many factors, how much we are feeding, what we are feeding and whether or not our pets are getting enough exercise. Sometimes figuring out how many calories they need per day and then measuring their food can be all it takes to help get them back to a good body condition.
Exercise should also play an important part in your pet’s weight management and mental health. Taking your dog for a good brisk walk provides mental and physical stimulation and will burn some of those calories away – for both of you! A win- win situation! Slowing down meal times for your dog can be achieved using food toys or using some of their daily portion for training. Scattering some of their kibble outside in the yard for them to hunt and find is the ultimate in slow eating and is also very rewarding and leaves you with a calmer dog afterwards.
For cats weight loss can be more challenging but providing play times with whatever toy gets them excited or even throwing some of their kibble (or the occasional treat) along the floor for them to chase and catch, can be very rewarding. For food motivated cats you can use (or make) food toys or hide food in different places so that they have to search and hunt.
Making meal times more fun provides mental and physical stimulation that pets really need, boredom and frustration can sometimes turn into more severe behavioral issues that owners can find hard to live with.
Of course our other big concerns are the medical issues that we see which are directly linked with obesity, the risk of diabetes and heart disease are greatly increased if your pet is as little as 20% overweight . Other medical concerns would be urinary stones and of course arthritis, not just something that affects our lovely seniors!
To give some idea of perspective of calories, if you were to give your 20lb dog 1 small oatmeal cookie that would be equivalent to you eating 1 hamburger or 2 chocolate bars and 1 ounce of cheddar cheese would be the equivalent to you eating 2 ½ hamburgers or 5 chocolate bars.
There are lots of weight management diets available commercially and trying to find a good quality food can be very confusing.
A good weight loss food should have a slightly higher protein level than their regular food and a lower fat content with a good vitamin and mineral content. The better brands have also incorporated specific fiber blends to help maintain satiety (the feeling of fullness) so that they do not come to you for more food in between meals. A couple of treats per day can be offered and there are several brands that make good quality low fat cookies, but make sure that this is included in your pets daily calorie ration. Avoiding table scraps can be challenging but can also make the difference between successful weight loss and just maintaining the status quo, so making sure that everyone in the family is onboard with the plan is important.
The key to keeping your pet healthier and happier is with-in your reach, please call us if we can help in any way.