According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 60% of cats and 56% of dogs in the U.S. are overweight or obese, and those numbers are on the rise. While many pet owners may find their chunky love-bug adorable, they are unaware of the serious health problems that their pet may be experiencing. Pet obesity can lead to a variety of concerns, including arthritis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, depression, liver disease, cancer, and more.
Of course, no one wants their pet to have health issues, so what can you do? First of all, educate yourself. You will need to figure out a healthy weight for your fluffy friend that is specific to their age and breed. Next, figure out what caused them to gain weight. Here are a few common reasons and how to help:
Too many treats can be a bad thing. We know you love your pet, but proving your love with food can have negative consequences. If you are training and need to use treats, switch to chopped carrots or peas which have fiber and other phytonutrients beneficial for health. If you just have to treat your pet because they are so darn cute, subtract the calories given as treats from their dinner to make sure you are not over-feeding.
Many pets become overweight due to a lack of exercise. If you have a chunky indoor cat, find toys that make your cat jump or chase to keep them active indoors. You can also teach them to walk on a leash! If your dog is overweight, add at least one 45 minute walk each day or bring a ball to play fetch with at the park.
Feeding your pet according to the directions on their pet food can actually make your pet fat, if the label is misunderstood. For example, the bag of dog food directs you to feed your 50 pound dog 2 cups per day. But what if a healthy weight for your dog is 40 pounds? The package directions suggest portions that are meant to sustain a dog at the specified weight. Therefore, feeding based off your pets unhealthy weight will keep them at the unhealthy weight. A veterinarian can help you determine the healthiest way to feed your individual pet.
The best thing you can do for your chubby ball of fluff is to learn the basics about their nutrition and understand that your pet’s digestive system is different than yours. You may need to eat 2,000 calories per day, so one little 50 calorie cookie won’t budge the scales, but your 25 pound dog only needs 600 calories in a day, so that cookie would most likely be stored as fat.
Remember, your pet trusts you to take care of them and protect them. They rely on you for food and fun so make sure to feed them healthy portions of high quality food and play with them often for fun exercise.