facts about obesity and how to help our pets
Why Obesity Matters
Obesity has become one of the most common problems in our pets today. This is due to a number of reasons, including more sedentary lifestyles, overfeeding, poor diet formulations and excessive table foods and treats.
In general, we want to be able to see a waist from both the side and top of dogs and cats. We want to be able to feel ribs with gentle rubbing, but not see them (there are a few breed exceptions where seeing ribs is normal).
Obesity causes the same problems in animals that it does in people. Diabetes, arthritis, as well as heart and respiratory diseases, are just a few big reasons to get and keep our pets thinner.
Sometimes a good food isn’t enough for your pet to lose weight and other more aggressive options can be used.
See our Pet Foods page for more on pet foods. We can help navigate the choices, but generally, any food has to be adjusted based on the individual pet’s weight and response to the diet. There isn’t one that works for every pet.
A true weight loss plan is often in order. Most importantly, exercise is important for weight control but diet is the biggest component to controlling weight. See the Food and Feeding page for started diet help.
If your pet’s diet meets the criteria in the Food Goals section, but there is still a weight problem, start with these steps:
1) Eliminate all people food and eliminate, or at least decrease, the snacks by half. Did you know that a one-ounce piece of cheese is the equivalent of 2.5 hamburgers for a small dog?
2) If the current volume fed is appropriate, then decrease the current volume by about 10-20 % and replace the volume with plain canned green beans. This is so that the dog thinks they are getting the same overall amount.
3) Get on the exercise! Start implementing a walk every day. Be sure this walk satisfies two different criteria: exploration and exercise. The first ten minutes is just for sniffing and exploring, so save the exercise portion for the end so that no one gets frustrated. Be sure to walk when it is cooler outside and make sure your dog is always in front of or beside you. If they start to lag, be sure to stop for rest and allow your dog to drink some water. Dogs overheat much faster than people!
4) If none of these routines decrease weight after four to six months, then a true diet change might be in order.
Most owners have only the best intentions when sharing the love through food. And yes, the pets are certainly going to respond enthusiastically. But this is a trained response that can be untrained. What they really crave is your attention. Giving them a kind word or a gentle rub will be much more meaningful to them. It may take time, consistency and will-power to teach them not to expect food every time you eat or every time they go outside, but a longer, healthier life is far more important overall.
Treats & Snacks
This will make some people mad, but the bottom line is this: pets don’t need treats, cookies and other snacks. They have their place in some training programs, but for the majority of adult pets, they aren’t needed. The reality is they satisfy more of an emotional need for their owners than they do for the pet. Take them for a walk or sit and pet them instead. They will quickly forget about the treat.
Many chews with rawhide components are high fat with lots of calories. They serve a function for young dogs that are still chewing but be careful. Most bones are either too hard and will fracture teeth or are too soft and will cause stomach problems.
Better toys are those that get the mind stimulated through solving puzzles. Busy Buddies makes a great line of mind-teasing toys. Kong Toys with a bit of frozen peanut butter will take them some time to figure out as well.
There are medical reasons for weight gain as well. A full physical examination and blood work may be in order to help rule these out, but they should be considered for your pet’s well-being.
People Food for Pets Trivia:
Did you know that one piece of cheese is the equivalent of 2.5 hamburgers for a small dog? The availability of people food is a huge offender in weight gain and causes many gastrointestinal problems, too. It should simply not be a part of your dog’s diet unless there are very specific medical reasons at play.