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The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention estimates that 54% of dogs and cats in the United States are overweight or obese. As with many chronic conditions, prevention is the ideal solution for pet obesity, but there are many ways you can reverse weight problems in your best furiends.
Just like their human companions, in order to lose weight, pets need to eat fewer calories and exercise regularly. The first step to helping your pet lose weight is to understand how many calories are in the food that they eat every day. Review your pet’s food label and consult with your veterinarian to determine if it is necessary to transition your pet to a weight management formula and how much exercise your pet needs in order to reduce his or her weight. Aside from this, there are a few surprising ways you can get your pet into shape.
1. Avoid free-feeding. Most overweight pets are free-fed, meaning that their food bowls are nearly always full and they may eat at their own desire. Free-feeding is inherently unnatural to both dogs and cats, who are descended from hunting animals who stalked and captured prey when their hunger demanded it. Rather than provide constant access to food for your pets, carefully measure meals and distribute at times agreed upon with your vet, usually no more than twice a day.
2. Make treats count. Most pet treats are just that – tasty but nutrient-deficient junk food for your pets. And just like our human children, your pets likely LOVE their fatty, calorie-laden yum-yums. Instead of picking up whatever treats are on sale this week, carefully consider the nutrient information on your pet’s treats and choose an affordable one with as few ingredients as possible. There are many treats made from sweet potato, salmon, blueberries, and other nutrient-rich ingredients that are just as healthy as they are delicious for your furbaby. Also pay attention to the frequency with which you dispense treats to your pets. Many pet parents give treats after every bathroom break and several times throughout the day, but as few as 30 extra calories per day can add up to several pounds packed onto your pet’s frame in a year. Try to wean your pets down to two snacks per day, and if you do treat after bathroom breaks, consider splitting treats in half or even thirds to reduce the number of calories he’s consuming without making him feel deprived of his favorite reward.
3. Trick your pets into healthy eating. If you have human children, this is likely not a new concept to you. Luckily, many of the vegetables we eat every day are safe and even beneficial for your pets, as well. If your pet is accustomed to receiving table scraps, keep a few baby carrots, green beans, broccoli spears, or cucumbers at the dinner table to hand out when Fido comes looking for a handout. Your pet will still feel like he’s getting away with something, and you’ll feel less guilty knowing that you’re keeping him healthy in the process. You may also freeze veggies and even apples and bananas into ice cubes for a fun and tasty treat, or fill a treat toy with mashed banana instead of peanut butter.
4. Get moving. Of course, your pet needs exercise justlike you do. Daily exercise is critical for your pet’s healthy and longevity, and it helps to prevent chronic illnesses and pain. Take your dog for a brisk walk for at least 20-30 minutes per day, or throw his favorite toy around the yard in a lively game of fetch. For cats, a laser pointer is nearly irresistible, and you’ll get a good laugh from watching her best feline acrobatics trying to catch the magic red dot in adorable confusion.
If after implementing these changes in your pet’s lifestyle, you don’t see any noticeable difference in her weight or health, consult your veterinarian for assistance in helping your pet slim down. Check with your pet insurance provider to see if your pet plan covers obesity-related treatments such as supplements and medications that may help reduce your pet’s weight. Keeping your pet at a healthy weight is key to enjoying a long and healthy life with your best friend for years to come.