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Set weight loss and health goals for your pet in 2022!

By January 24, 2022 No Comments

It is that time of year again, resolution time! Talk of weight loss and health goals are around every corner. Something you may not have considered is making some weight loss and health goals for your pet. Weight loss can be difficult for everyone, our pets included! However, losing weight and getting into shape can add years to your pet’s life and make it more enjoyable too. Overweight and obese dogs and cats have an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, breathing problems, osteoarthritis pain, hypertension, kidney disease, cancer and shortened life expectancy. It requires commitment, dedication, and often the assistance of your veterinary team but weight loss is possible!

If you feel your pet may be overweight you should consult with your veterinary team before starting a weight loss program. It is important to make sure there are no underlying conditions to be aware of. Based on your pets’ level of obesity your veterinarian may recommend an initial target weight. After the initial goal is reached, they may wish to evaluate if more weight loss is recommended. You’ll want to discuss the right diet for the age of your pet, body condition score, and general state of health.

Here are some helpful nutrition tips:

1. You must keep track of calories and measure the amount fed when entering a weight reduction program for your pet. It is preferred that you use a kitchen scale to weigh food amounts rather than by measuring cup. It can make a big difference!

2. Feeding too much will result in no weight loss (and maybe even weight gain) and feeding too little can result in serious health consequences such as hepatic lipidosis or fatty liver syndrome. Generally, the goal is to lose 1-2% body weight per week.

3. Keep a close eye at feeding times, make sure your pet is not sneaking some of their siblings’ meals! For example, kitten food is often much higher in calories than adult foods.

4. Keep track of how many treats they are getting in a day. Often, they are high in calories and can have a big impact. Try breaking treats into smaller portions, they will enjoy the reward regardless of the size of the treat.

5. One little chunk of cheese is a lot of calories for a pet. To a medium size dog, one dog biscuit can be the equivalent of eating a whole hamburger to you! Consider low calorie pet treats. Instead of unhealthy human food like Timbits or hot dogs try a small amount of carrot or cucumber.

6. Pet food labels can be confusing. Ask your veterinarian how many calories your pet should have a day. Also, it may not be as simple as feeding less food, you may need to consider switching to a different food to suit your pet’s needs.

7. For some cats the best way to lose weight may be with canned diet food fed several times a day rather than leaving kibble out at all times. Finicky felines may prefer wet food over dry. Eating meals rather than nibbling throughout the day discourages eating out of boredom.

8. Your veterinarian will be able to recommend a weight loss diet that is right for your pet. Pet store foods may be helpful for losing a small amount of weight. However, these diets are often not as effective as veterinary weight loss diets if your pet needs to lose a significant amount or if they have other medical concerns. Some diets are high protein, low carb, others have high fiber content to help your pet feel full and prevent begging. Some have specific nutrients that help promote increased metabolism to help burn calories more quickly. Be sure to ask what is recommended for your pets‘ needs.

9. When introducing a new food, you should allow for a three-week transition. Ask your veterinary team what they recommend. They will have suggestions for increasing the palatability of the new food too.

Helpful exercise tips:

1. Consider a short exercise before mealtime so that your pet ‘earns’ a good meal. Try a short walk or a treasure hunt to find a hidden treat.

2. Take your dog for brisk walks, not casual strolls. If your dog is very overweight and/or new to quick walking, start a bit slower and increase speed gradually.

3. Keep a short leash and only stop for bathroom breaks not to smell everything in sight. Also, consider using a harness instead of a collar and leash. Collars can compress the trachea when pulled causing difficulty breathing when out for some exercise! (As an aside, “sniff walks” are also highly recommended for emotional stimulation but should be treated as a separate walk or as a separate component of the brisk walk – maybe make it the warm-up or cool down period!).

4. When walking your dog try to keep it interesting for both of you by using different routes and different locations.

5. Diversify exercise with your dog by playing with tug toys. Try hide and seek or if your dog loves water add supervised swimming when the weather is appropriate. For your cat try to mix things up by using feather toys, paper bags, and boxes.

6. Keep active. Play with your cat for at least ten minutes twice daily. Play with your dog for at least 15 minutes twice daily.

7. Give your cat at least one or two elevated areas to climb to help with muscle tone. Cat trees are very helpful. You can also use areas around your house like stairs and accessible window sills.

8. If your cat does not have significant mobility concerns, move their food bowl to different locations in the house, like upstairs and downstairs. This way they will need to walk to get to the food bowl.

8. Invest in a feeding ball or food puzzle or toys you can hide the food in and place them around the house. This is an excellent way to increase your pets’ activity and mental health by giving them a new natural way to get their food by ‘hunting’ it. Make sure you include this food in their daily calorie allowance!

Monitor your pet’s weight. Keep a record and check in with your veterinarian about how quickly or slowly they lose weight monthly. They may make recommendations to make sure they stay healthy. Once you and your pet reach your goal, ask your veterinarian how to maintain that ideal weight. Most importantly, remember to keep positive and don’t give up! Your pet is worth it.

Check out these nutrition resources, including body condition scoring charts, on our website:


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