Fat British Shorthair, 2.5 years old, sitting and looking with suspicion in front of white backgroundIs your pet carrying around a few extra pounds?

If so, he or she is not alone. With over 50% of the pets in the United States considered to be overweight or obese, it is becoming clear that the obesity epidemic that has been affecting humans is spreading to our pets as well. And simply put, this is not good.

Pets who are overweight are at increased risk for many diseases, including arthritis, cancer, and diabetes, and often live shorter lives than their ideal-weight counterparts.

If you suspect that your pet is overweight, you should take the time to talk with your veterinarian about what a healthy goal weight for your pet is, and how to achieve that number.

Here are a few tips on how to help pets lose weight…

Know the Signs of An Overweight Pet

If you are aware of what extra weight looks like on your pet, you are more likely to do something about it.

If you cannot feel your pet’s ribs easily, your dog or cat likely needs to lose weight. You should also be able to see a waistline from above and a tummy tuck when viewed from the side. While there are certainly exceptions, comparing your pet’s weight to breed recommendations can be helpful when knowing what to look for.

Measure Your Pet’s Food

A cup of dog food contains a lot of calories. Use the chart on the back of the bag or can to determine how much you should be feeding your pet. Feed for your pet’s ideal weight, not its current one, and if you’re not sure how much that is, ask your veterinarian.

If your pet has more than a few pounds to lose you may have to make a few smaller goals to reach the final number. It is important to use a measuring cup when feeding as well. You may think you know what one-and-a-half cups of dog kibble looks like, but chances are you are not being very accurate on a daily basis.

Cut the Treats

Treats are a source of a large amount of calories for a lot of pets. Treats and “extras” like table food should never be more than 10% of a pet’s daily intake. A 10-pound dog only needs 300 calories per day.

That limit can be met quickly with just 12 Snausages. Just one small Busy Bone Dental Chew treat contains 309 Calories! That’s more than is needed for an entire day. Try replacing treats with smaller portions, or choose lower calorie options. Green beans and baby carrots are always a great option, and many pets prefer them.

Provide Your Pet With Regular Exercise

Just like for people, exercise is key to shedding pounds and maintaining an ideal weight. Make an effort every day to engage your pet in 15 minutes or more of rigorous activity. Play a game of fetch, have them chase a laser pointer or some bubbles, or take them for a stroll. If your pet isn’t interested, that is typically a sure-fire sign that his or her weight is affecting your pet’s overall health.

Monitor Weight Regularly

Weigh your pet at home or at the vet’s office on a monthly basis. Sometimes it is hard to notice subtle changes when you are with them every day. Closely monitoring weight can alert you to a problem sooner.

If you have any other questions about managing your pet’s weight, including his or her ideal weight, what you should be feeding them, and what treats can help battle the bulge, please give us a call.