Are Fido and Fifi looking a little rounder after the festive season? Scarily, research released by the PFMA indicates that vets believe that up to 45% of dogs and 40% of cats are obese. Yikes!
While the idea of ‘curvy’ and ‘cuddly’ pet might seem cute, there’s nothing funny about an obese animal. Overweight pets are susceptible to developing a range of horrible health problems, from cardiovascular disease to diabetes and arthritis. Sadly, obesity ultimately leads to a shorter life expectancy for your furry friend.
Just like with us humans, the key reason behind obesity in our pets is simple – over-feeding and under-exercising. Don’t feel too guilty though – we can all be guilty of ‘loving’ our pets a bit too much when it comes to food and treats. So to get the new year off to a good start, we’ve shared our top 10 tips for helping your pet lose weight, to live a happier and healthier life!
1. KNOW YOUR PET’S IDEAL WEIGHT
The first step to getting your pet in tip top shape is knowing what your they currently weigh and what their ideal weight is, based on their breed and size. If you can’t get your dog or cat on the bathroom scales, ask your vet to weigh them – they can also advise on your pet’s ideal weight.
2. SET GOALS
Set your pet’s goal weight and work out (with the help of your vet) a safe timeline to reach this weight. It might be only a few weeks if your furry friend is just carrying a touch of extra Christmas Pudding, or it could be months if they have more weight to shed. From here you can calculate sensible weekly and monthly milestones.
3. PORTION CONTROL
Let’s not beat around the bush – if your pet is overweight, it’s most likely because you’re feeding them too much – probably without even realising. Make friends with your kitchen scales and get familiar with feeding guidelines for your dog’s ideal size and weight. Pets require surprisingly small portions of raw and high-protein foods, and it can be easy to overfeed without meaning to.
TOP TIP: For raw food, measure out portions for the week ahead, wrap in cling film and freeze to keep it fresh.
4. TIMED FEEDING
Experts agree that pets shouldn’t have access to food 24 hours a day. It’s not natural or healthy for animals that are instinctively hunters. When food is left out all day, pets can ‘graze’ for long periods, and in some cases become disinterested in their food.
It’s recommended that you feed your pet at the same time every day (twice is normally good, although four small meals may work better for your pet), and leave food down for no longer than half an hour. If your pet hasn’t eaten their food in this time, take it away and don’t feed them again until their next meal time. This way, they will become familiar with their feeding routine and be more excited about meals without ‘snacking’ all day.
5. MAKE MEAL TIME FUN
Turn your dog or cat’s meal time into a stimulating game and engage their mental and physical instincts to hunt. Not many of us have the time to do this at every meal, but every so often, try a treat hunt in the garden, or hide food inside objects so your pet can enjoy the thrill and challenge of getting them out. Empty egg cartons and cardboard tubes work well – you can also buy specially designed slow and anti-gorge feeders to make meal time more stimulating.
6. TRY RAW & HOMEMADE MEALS
Some commercial pet foods, particularly supermarket brands, can be high in carbohydrates and calories, adding to the obesity problem. If you are worried about exactly what you are putting into your pet, try making some meals at home (there’s some great recipe ideas online for healthy homemade meals for pets), or try introducing some raw foods into their diet which are higher in protein and come without any fillers or nasties.
7. REWARD WITH HEALTHY TREATS
A lot of us think of ‘treats’ as being separate from our pet’s main food intake, but the fact is, they all add up. Nearly half of all pet owners are giving their pets treats twice a day (PFMA). Save treats for rewarding really good behaviour, rather than just ‘because’. Switch to healthy, low calorie treats – you’ll be doing your pet a favour!
8. CUT THE HUMAN TREATS
We all love our pets to death, but we may be literally loving them to death with some human treats, that are not only calorific, but can also be toxic. Big no-no’s for dogs are chocolate, grapes, dried fruit, onion, avocado, and anything that’s high in sugar and salt.
9. BEWARE OF DIET FOODS
The rise in pet obesity has brought with it a whole range of so-called ‘diet’ pet foods. Before you simply switch your pet to a diet food – do some research. Look for a food that is high in protein, low in fat and low in carbohydrates.
10. GET FIDO FIT!
This one can’t be stressed enough! Pets that do regular exercise are fitter, happier and healthier – simple. Overweight pets can become sluggish and lack energy, so getting them to exercise can be difficult. Persevere, you’ll be amazed when they do start to shed those pounds and you notice their zest for life return!
TOP EXERCISE TIPS:
- See this as an opportunity for both you and your pet to improve your health and wellbeing – just think how good you’ll feel for the extra walks and fresh air each day
- Mix it up – if walking the dog feels like a chore, try some agility classes in your local area which cater for beginners, or for something more adventurous, take a look at organised running events like CaniX
- If you are struggling to find the time to get your dog out on walks often enough, consider a dog walker once or twice a week who can take your pooch out and give them a really good session
- For heavily overweight dogs with joint or arthritic problems, look at hydrotherapy as a gentle and effective way to get them moving
- Indoor cats cat put on weight easily due to inactivity – make sure to provide them with lots of stimulation, including places for climbing and jumping, as well as play time and games. Check out our post – 7 Tips for a Happy Indoor Cat for some ideas.
*Research source: Pet Obesity: Five Years On – PFMA