Why helping your pet to lose weight could save their life – Part 2
In Part 1, we talked about the health implications of your pet being overweight or obese and how it can shorten their lifespan, as well as making them vulnerable to developing health problems. In part 2, we will be focusing on how to help your pet shed those pounds and reach their healthy weight!
So, here are some tips and tricks to get you started:
- Select a diet that is designed to help with weight loss (e.g. light, reduced calorie) and remember to feed them to the weight that you want them to be not the weight that they are.
- Foods that are designed to help with weight loss do have their advantages over simply just reducing the amount of the usual food you feed. Firstly, they are designed to be less calorie dense, this means that you can feed your pet a similar sized portion to their normal food. Secondly, because they often contain more fibre, they should leave your pet feeling satisfied and full, rather than planning their next scavenging adventure!
- There are plenty of brands to choose from and if you are unsure which one to pick, it is always worth talking it through with your vet. We have a wide range of low-calorie foods at www.dogtor.vet and are on hand to help if you need any advice: https://www.dogtor.vet/conditions/nutrition-weight-control/weight-loss.html.
- Try dividing their daily ration up into 3-4 small meals over the course of the day. This will not only help to reduce any ‘begging’ behaviour but is proven to increase the number of calories burnt compared to feeding your pet once or twice daily.
- Use a set of electronic kitchen scales to weigh out their meals rather than using a cup or a scoop, as this can be inaccurate and lead to overfeeding.
- Increase the number of opportunities that your pet gets to exercise by walking them and playing with them, this should become a regular feature in their day. On average, your dog will need at least 1 hour of exercise per day and even more if they are a large breed or active.
- Why not try joining an agility club with your dog, you never know your dog could be the next agility star selected to take part in the doggy Olympics!
- Swimming is also a great form of exercise and the perfect way to help your water-loving pooch shed those pounds.
- For our feline friends, invest in a wand toy that they can stalk and pounce on and try moving it around to encourage them to chase after it. This is particularly beneficial if you have an indoor cat, as they tend to be less active compared to their outdoor cat friends.
- Stopping treats altogether can be unrealistic, as it’s an important part of bonding with your furry friend. Instead replace their usual treats with healthy low–calorie alternatives like carrots, apples, blueberries or banana slices, remembering to give everything in moderation.
- Alternatively, if your pooch or kitty is not a fruit and vegetable lover then try low-calorie dog and cat treats instead https://www.dogtor.vet/conditions/nutrition-weight-control/weight-loss.html.
- Do make sure that you factor the extra treat calories into their daily allowance. As a rule, treats should account for less than 10% of their daily calories.
- Depending on the size of your pooch or the patience of your kitty, it may be easier and more accurate to take them to the vets to be weighed, rather than spending hours trying to coerce them onto your bathroom scales!
- A bit like us, your pet will need to have regular weigh-ins during their weight loss journey to help assess their progress. Many veterinary surgeries run their own pet weight–watchers’ clinics for free, so it’s worth giving them a call to find out. This can be a valuable source of support and guidance.
- Even after they have reached their ideal weight, it’s a good idea to continue to weigh them every few months to check no sneaky pounds have crept back on – it’s much easier to prevent weight gain than to treat it!
Make meal times fun!
- Interactive feeder toys such as ‘maze bowls’ or treat-dispensing puzzle toys and balls are great for getting your pet moving. Instead of using treats use your pet’s kibble instead and try feeding one of their meals using them. Not only is this good for keeping your pet active, but it is also great for their wellbeing, providing mental stimulation.
- If you have a dog that is prone to inhaling their food in a matter of seconds, try feeding them using a maze bowl or a bowl with compartments. This can help to slow them down giving their tummy time to register their food, which will make them less likely to pull their best ‘Oliver Twist’ routine after polishing off their food!
- If you feed your pet on wet food, use a Kong toy and fill it with their wet food, be careful though as this may not be carpet friendly and may be best given to your pet outside.
- For more information on interactive feeders and toys, check out our range on https://www.dogtor.vet/toys-games/educational-interactive-games.html.
Good luck and remember by helping them to lose weight you could be saving their life!
Anna Cherry BSc (Hons) BVSc MRCVS
(veterinary surgeon at dogtor.vet)