About 60% of cats and 56% of dogs in the U.S. can be called obese, according to statistics. Just imagine spending most of your days lying on the sofa with an unlimited food supply just a couple of steps away. For your pet, this may sound like a dream come true, but pet owners have to take responsibility. Obesity leads to numerous health problems, including high blood pressure, liver disease, a weak immune system, and even diabetes. So it’s better to help your pet shed some pounds before it’s too late.
Bright Side knows how difficult it can be to say “no” when your beloved pet asks for a piece of your dinner or tries to stay at home and cuddle instead of going for a walk. Luckily, there are some tips that can help you improve your pet’s health without taking drastic measures. And the bonus at the end of the article will prove that nothing is impossible!
1. Give your pet more attention to replace treats.
Your pet will probably keep asking for treats no matter what, so try to give them some positive attention that isn’t connected with food. Show your love and affection to your pet and spend more time with them than usual. When your dog asks for a treat, just give it a belly rub or play with its favorite toy (another chance to exercise!). Your pet is going through a rough period, so they need all the support they can get.
2. Never feed your pet with table scraps, but don’t forget about small rewards from time to time.
Feeding your pet table scraps isn’t a good idea, even if your pet is healthy: animals usually prefer fatty foods that are not only high in calories but can cause serious digestive problems like pancreatitis, diarrhea, and vomiting. But if your pet needs some encouragement, buy healthy snacks made especially for animals or give them some healthy human food that isn’t dangerous for them. Don’t forget to make sure that the treat fits into their daily calorie requirements!
3. Count calorie intake.
Most pets will eat as much as you give them, so don’t fall for their sad and “hungry” eyes. You need to be precise about the number of calories your pet consumes. The exact number will differ for each animal depending on the breed, lifestyle, health problems, and personal features. So talk to your veterinarian, find out how many portions of the food add up to how many calories they need, and keep track of their intake. Don’t forget to include any small treats you give to your pet!
4. Set up a feeding schedule.
Veterinarians recommend feeding adult dogs and cats 2 times a day. Fill the bowl with food, give your pet some time to eat it, and then clean it up no matter how much food is left. It’ll take some time for your pet to get used to this routine if you used to free-feed them before. Check with your vet to determine the best feeding routine and get some advice on how you can incorporate it into your pet’s life without causing unnecessary stress.
5. Make sure that all members of your family are on board with the diet plan.
Helping your pet lose some weight should become a family project. There won’t be any results if another member of the family sabotages the process, overfeeds the pet, or interferes with their eating schedule. Of course, it can be difficult to explain to your children why you can’t treat a dog with some leftovers anymore. But try to make them understand the possible health risks. Plus, a healthy pet makes a great play companion!
6. Slowly incorporate exercise into your pet’s life.
Just like humans, animals need some time to adjust to an active lifestyle. So don’t expect that a cat that has spent the last couple of years lying on the sofa will happily chase some toy you just bought for it. Besides, such a sudden change can lead to heat stroke and problems with muscles and joints. It’s recommended for dogs to get at least a half an hour of physical activity and for cats have 3, 5-minute intensive playing periods. Just be patient and help your pet exercise every day, but for short periods of time.
7. Choose high-quality food for your pet.
Your pet needs to have a well-balanced menu with the proper amount of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and fiber. You can feed your pet with natural products or buy pet food. The key is to monitor their calorie intake and avoid artificial flavors, taste enhancers, and preservatives. Try different approaches to find out what works best for your pet. But remember that you should always get professional advice before putting your pet on any kind of diet.
8. Don’t forget about water.
Pets need to stay hydrated so their bodies can get all the necessary nutrients from their food. Besides, research says that increasing the water content of food can actually promote weight loss. So make sure your pet always has a bowl of clean and fresh water. Never limit your pet’s water intake, unless your veterinarian precisely asks you to do so.
9. Consider adding some supplements to your pet’s diet.
Weight loss can increase the need for certain vitamins and minerals. So make sure to run some tests and incorporate the necessary supplements into your pet’s diet. There are also some supplements that can boost your pet’s metabolism and increase their energy levels. Always consult with your vet before giving any medicine or supplements to your pet!
10. Take it slow.
Remember, that you shouldn’t expect a dramatic weight loss during the first month. Losing weight can be extremely challenging and even stressful for pets, especially for cats. In terms of body weight, if your dog loses from 1 to 3% and your cat, about 0.5 — 2%, a month, they’re doing great. Never put your pet on a strict diet because this can cause even more health problems! Just stay consistent with the weight-loss plan and don’t forget about regular weigh-ins and medical check-ups.
How can you tell if your pet is overweight?
Before going to the vet, you can perform a simple test at home. Make a loose fist with your hand and run your fingers from the back of your hand to the back of your fingers near the knuckles. Then pet your cat or dog touching their ribs and compare the feeling:
- If their ribs feel like the bones on the back of your hand, your pet is likely to be overweight.
- If their ribs are more like your knuckles, your pet is probably underweight.
- If their ribs feel like the back of your fingers (so you can feel the ribs, but there’s some fat tissue there too), your pet is probably in good shape.
Bonus: Take a look at the cat who managed to lose half of her body weight!
Bertha, an elderly cat, weighed about 28 pounds when she was transferred to a cat sanctuary. Back then, she couldn’t walk without resting every few feet and her stomach almost touched the floor. She couldn’t even groom herself! But thanks to exercise, Bertha managed to lose a huge amount of fat in just 7 months and became healthier and more active.
Have you ever been in a situation where your pet had to shed a few pounds? Which of the methods worked best for you? Share your experience in the comments below.