According to many veterinarians, obesity is the most common nutrition-related problem of dogs and cats. By some estimates, overweight pets make up 25 to 40 percent of the dog and cat population.
Pet obesity can lead to many serious conditions such as diabetes, joint damage, heart disease, digestive problems and difficulty in breathing just to name a few.
How to tell if your pet is overweight
Obesity is the excessive collection of body fat. A pet’s ribs should be easy to feel. But your pet’s ribs should not be overly exposed.
If you think that your pet is heading toward obesity, check with your vet to determine what steps to start taking. There are degrees of pet obesity so if your pet is not yet so overweight that you need to change to a special weight loss food, here are some tips:
- Don’t let your pet control what he eats. Cut back on the amount you feed. Dogs, in particular are great at begging and using a sad face to get more food. If he looks really hungry after he finishes his bowl of food, give him some low calorie foods such as apples or carrots as long as it doesn’t upset his stomach.
- Feed appropriate snacks. Look for nutritious pet treats which add some nutritional value to the pet’s menu. Many treats bought in a store are too fattening.
- The overweight pet needs additional exercise opportunities at least a couple of times per week. Take longer walks than usual or give him more play time. Never give him too much exercise. Make sure that any outdoor activity is not during the hot part of the day.
Changing your pet’s food
The veterinarian may say that a different food is needed to help your overweight pet. Choose a healthy, nutritious dog food with lower fat and caloric values but one that has sufficient fatty acids. Without the fatty acids, the pet’s coat can become dry and itchy.
As with human diets, weight loss should be gradual. It may take 8 to 12 months for the pet to lose the necessary weight so don’t be discouraged.
As with any food change, change the food gradually so the pet’s digestion system is not upset. Check with the vet to determine how long to keep him on the weight loss food as it may not be healthy to keep him on this food for an extended period.
Most weight loss dog foods are not nutritionally balanced. However, there is some weight loss food available that is properly balanced and is a healthy, nutritious pet food.
Part 2 of this post discusses specific steps you need to follow to prevent your dog from being overweight. I will see you there.