Make a New Years Resolution to Help Your Chubby Pet Lose Weight
The New Year is approaching and we’ve stocked up on cookies, eggnog and other high calorie treats. Our pants may be a bit tight.
January 1 is usually the day we start our New Year’s resolutions to eat healthier, exercise more, and lose a few pounds. It could also be a good day to watch Fido or Fluffy and see what kind of shape they are.
You’ve probably slipped them an extra treat or two while enjoying yours, and their waistlines might show it.
And it’s not just a seasonal issue. As with humans, obesity in pets is a problem – dare I say it – a growing problem in the United States. In fact, it could be worse for them than for us.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2018, the prevalence of obesity among Americans was 42.4%.
Here are some even darker 2021 statistics from the animal information platform petkeen.com:
• Veterinarians estimate that up to 59% of all American pets are obese.
• Over the past 10 years, there has been a 169% increase in the number of overweight cats and a 158% increase in the number of overweight dogs.
• Up to 37% of all dogs are overweight by the age of 6 months.
• The risk of obesity in pets increases with the aging of the owner and the animal. Overweight owners are more likely to have overweight pets.
• The lifespan of obese animals is on average 2.5 years shorter than that of their non-obese counterparts.
• Obesity is a major risk factor for certain diseases and causes emotional stress and physical pain in pets.
The eyeball test
A quick eyeball test can help determine if there is cause for concern about your pet’s weight.
The animal should have a clearly defined size and its ribs should be easy to smell without being clearly visible. There should be no obvious fatty deposits and abdominal distension.
If your dog or cat is overweight, a visit to the vet can help rule out physical issues and suggest ways to get rid of the excess.
“The most important thing to do is speak to a qualified source to help you,” said Dr. Michelle Honse, veterinarian at River Valley Veterinary Hospital in Springdale. “It’s our job to bring it up, but we do it gently. Believe it or not, most people just admit it when they know their pet has put on weight.
There may be legitimate reasons why a pet owner does not follow their pet’s diet and exercise regimen, such as a change in job, health condition, or additional family responsibilities.
Helping an animal regain a healthy weight comes down to two basic things, Honse said, and the same goes for cats and dogs: more exercise and less food.
“The first thing is to count calories,” Honse said. “Most animals are just overfed. This is the basal metabolic rate – if you take in too many calories, you will gain weight.
Love through food
It wasn’t a New Year’s resolution that put Katie, an American Cocker Spaniel, on a diet – it was a rebuke her owners got from their vet.
When Jen and Deb Costello adopted Katie about 5 years ago, the dog was actually underweight.
It didn’t last long.
Katie came to the Hempfield couple’s house from Deb’s elderly mother, who was no longer able to care for her.
“We showed her love through the food,” Jen said. “It was the excuse we used, but it was a bad excuse.”
Snacks at mealtimes, snacks at bedtime – and the pounds started to add up. Health problems worsened the situation.
Katie was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, which limited her physical activity, and medication for a stubborn ear infection added to her weight gain.
The dog, now 10, weighed around 34 pounds when his owners received the note from their vet.
“The vet lectured us, ‘Look, you have to take this out,’” Jen said. “We had to realize that we were making her capable. ”
So that was goodbye to egg yolks and pasta and hello to Fresh Pet grain free foods, vegetables, fruits and low calorie treats.
“We also started to bring her out more and get her moving,” Jen said.
Their efforts paid off: Katie is down to just 26 pounds.
“It took us at least a year to lose weight, and it took us that long to change our habits,” Jen said. “You have to learn to say no. ”
“Most of the treats are just empty calories,” said Michael Post, interim shelter director and medical coordinator at Animal Protectors of Allegheny Valley in New Kensington. “When we see an overweight dog, it’s usually about overfeeding them with treats. ”
The treats also caused problems for the dogs at Animal Friends of Westmoreland Shelter in Youngwood.
“The dogs are walked three times a day but, even with that, we encountered a problem with every volunteer coming in every shift wanting to give them a treat,” said AFW Executive Director Kelli Brisbane.
This not only resulted in weight gain but also an upset stomach for some of the dogs.
“We had to train (the volunteers) to give them a hug, a kiss and a walk instead of treats,” she said.
Post recommends replacing wrapped treats with fruits and vegetables.
Regarding the shelter cats, Brisbane said: “Obviously the cats don’t get walked, but we encourage them to play. But cats love to do what they love to do.
Cats are given wet food in the morning and have kibble available throughout the day in the common area of the cattery.
“If we have a cat with an affinity for eating, we may need to keep it in a crate to prevent it from overeating,” Brisbane said.
“You can encourage cats to move more by playing with teaser toys and laser pointers,” Post said.
Here are some weight loss tips from the American Kennel Club:
• Give your dog their normal morning meal, but replace the second meal with low sodium green beans, some kibble and a canine multivitamin.
• Switch to a healthier treat option. Try replacing cookies, cheese, and other high-fat treats with chopped fresh carrots, apples or green beans with no added flavor. Most dogs like something crisp.
• If your dog’s training regimen includes treats as a reward, remember to subtract those calories from the daily food allowance.
• Don’t associate food with love.
• Remember that most dogs are highly motivated by food and will be voracious even after being fed.
Counting the calories of cats
A cat’s diet can include both reduced calories and increased movement. VCA hospitals suggest a few ways to do this:
• Move the food bowl to rotating locations around the house, so the cat always has to walk to get to the food.
• Keep the food bowl as far away from your cat’s favorite places as possible.
• Invest in food balls that a cat must roll to get chunks of food as a reward. You can also throw their dry food at them so that they can drive it away at mealtimes.
• Schedule regular times to play with your cat. Use feather toys, laser pointers, foil or foil balls, or anything your cat will chase. Try to play 10 minutes twice a day.