The 14th of October is the National Pet Obesity Awareness Day, which comes with a subtle reminder that a healthy weight, helps ensure a healthy pet.
Pet obesity has become a common health issue. Experts estimate that almost 60% of dogs and cats in the United States are overweight or obese. Like humans, poor diet and overeating contributes to excessive weight gain in pets, which can result in health problems like diabetes or degenerative joint diseases.
The addition of these extra pounds can have various health consequences on our furry friends, hampering the relationship we share with them. Yet, many pet owners still don’t realize how their choices directly contribute to their pets’ weight issues.
Why Should My Pet Maintain A Healthy Weight In The First Place?
Obesity has many ill effects. For one, it makes your pet more susceptible to various health problems like diabetes, osteoarthritis, heart and respiratory disease, not to mention multiple types of cancer. Maintaining an ideal weight means a better quality of life at optimal health, which translates to more happy years with you.
How Do I Know My Pet Is Obese?
Not sure how to tell if your dog or cat is overweight? You’re not alone! Many pet owners don’t know when it’s time to worry about their pet’s weight.
Regardless of your pet’s breed or size, you can easily evaluate whether your pet is overweight using a measurement tool called the ‘body condition score’ or a BCS chart. Most vets have body condition score charts available at their offices, and you can also find them readily available online.
A BCS chart presents you with a set of physical guidelines to check your pet’s weight.
For example, put your hands on your pet’s ribcage. The ribs should be palpable, but not visible. Next, check your pet’s “waist” line from above. It should resemble the shape of an hourglass. When you view your pet from the side, its abdomen should appear slightly tucked up behind the rib cage. Look for fat deposits over their back or at the base of their tail, as these are indications that your pet may have a weight problem.
Expert’s Tips to Prevent Pet Obesity
As a pet owner, your pet’s weight is an issue that requires attention and vigilance from you. Your pet looks to you to take care of their needs and keep them healthy, which includes maintaining an optimal weight. Here are a few expert tips that you can follow to help prevent your pet from unnecessarily packing on extra pounds:
#1: Manage Portions
It’s easy to be tempted to overfeed our pets at mealtime or hand out extra treats for good behavior. But regularly overfeeding your pet has serious consequences for their health and wellbeing.
When we talk about obesity prevention in pets, portion control is key. Keep a watchful eye on the amount of food and fats your pet consumes. When you buy pet food, read labels and instructions carefully. Make sure the diet you select is appropriate for your pet’s needs. Feed only the suggested portions allocated for your pet’s weight and age range. Using a smaller bowl, apportioned for one meal at a time, can also help ensure your dog doesn’t overeat in one sitting.
Elevated bowls can also be useful to slow down fast eaters and encourage pets to chew their food, aiding in digestion. The JoviBowl feeding system has a well-portioned bowl that allows for single meal feeds at a customizable elevated height with adjustable tilt.
Beyond slowing down fast eaters and encouraging effective digestion, the JoviBowl helps prevent neck strain and reduces joint stress, and supports pets with disabilities, such as difficulty swallowing, arthritis, blindness, and pets with recovery cones.
#2: Set Designated Feeding Time
Try to maintain a regular feeding schedule that divides meal times throughout the day. Avoid ‘free feeding,’ where you keep your pet’s bowl filled at all times. Pets that free feed aren’t cognizant of portion size and often overeat. Even pets that do not have a tendency to overeat often snack or graze when they have nothing else to do. This practice quickly leads to weight gain.
Setting designated meal times gives you control over portion size, which makes it easier for you to track and monitor how much your pet is eating each day. For dogs, 2 to 3 staggered meals per day is just fine. Cats require 3 to 4 meals per day.
#3: Understand Proper Pet Nutrition
Not only do you need to feed your pet the right portion of food, but also the right type for its species, size, and age. For instance, puppies and kittens require specialized diets that have been formulated with the appropriate nutrients, proteins, and fats to help them grow. Senior pets also require formulated diets that target the specific needs of an aging animal.
Most pet foods have labeled products with information to help you decide which variety is best for your pet. Although most diets come with feeding guidelines, it’s important to know that every pet is unique. A consultation with your veterinarian can be beneficial, as they can determine what types of products have the right nutritional mix to meet your pet’s specific needs. They’ll also be able to give you advice on how much to feed your pet, and how often.
#4: Daily Exercise is Important
Pets of every age need exercise. A sedentary lifestyle can lead to obesity along with other health problems like joint and behavioral issues. Daily exercise keeps the circulatory system working, lowers blood pressure, and it builds muscle. It also allows your animal to expel energy, keeping their mind active and stimulated in the process. Exercising with your pet is also a good way to keep you fit and healthy, an added bonus!
Ideally, dogs should get at least 30-minutes of exercise a day. This can be in the form of a long walk, a hike or run, a game of catch, or even a couple of shorter leisurely walks throughout the day. Cats need stimulating environments to keep them agile mentally engaged, so provide them with climbing posts and toys to keep them active.
#5: Healthy & Nutritious Lean Treats
All pets love goodies, and most pet owners love to treat their furry friends with snacks for good behavior. However, quality is key when it comes to treats. A lot of commercial treats are packed with fillers that are devoid of nutrients and packed with empty calories.
Lean meat treats, and even fresh fruits and veggies, are low-calorie snack options that taste great and provide necessary nutrients. Why not motivate your dog with raw carrots, apple slices, or string beans? These are all fantastic options, especially if your pet already has a weight problem.
Contact your veterinarian for other great low-calorie, high quality treat suggestions.
#6: Regular Weigh-Ins & Vet Visits
Regular visits to the veterinarian are key to keeping your pet healthy. Vets take a slew of baseline measurements every time you visit. You can consult with them about your pet’s optimal weight, so you have an idea of their ideal size. They’ll also be able to address potential weight-related issues before they become bigger problems.
Once you know how much your pet should weigh, you can purchase a digital scale to keep in the home. Measuring your pet every couple of months is a good idea to ensure they aren’t gaining, or losing, too much weight.
Final Note on Pet’s Obesity
Obesity is an affliction that has many health consequences for pets. Taking care of your pet’s health is an important part of your relationship that will result in a longer, healthier, and happier life for your pet. Make the best of your days together by taking the necessary steps to ensure your beloved pet maintains a healthy weight.
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