I’ve been noticing more and more pudgy and portly pets during my daily shuffle. It got me thinking, how does a pet get overweight? They aren’t born overweight, but over the years they gradually pack on the pounds (much like we do). The difference is that a dog isn’t going to put themselves on a diet. As responsible pet parents, it is our job to monitor the health of our pets and make adjustments where necessary.
Pet obesity is a huge problem in America. An estimated 54% of dogs and cats in the United States are overweight or obese. Obesity in pets can cause many of the same issues that it causes humans, including arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, cancer and decreased life expectancy. While pet obesity is becoming an epidemic, there are a few simple steps you can take decrease your pets’ risk or even help them to lose weight!
Know Your Pets’ Caloric Requirements
The average human needs a 2000 calorie diet to maintain their weight and receive adequate nutrition, our pets need far less. Refer to the following chart to estimate the number of calories that your pets’ require. For a more accurate estimate of your dog’s require caloric intake, visit the Dog Food Advisor’s Dog Food Calculator.
|Cats (10 lbs)||180-200 calories*|
|10 lb Dogs||200-275 calories*|
|20 lb Dogs||325-400 calories*|
|50 lb Dogs||700-900 calories*|
*Calorie counts provided are estimated guidelines for average lightly active adult spayed or neutered dogs or cats. The caloric needs of a particular pet may differ depending on such factors as lifestyle, genetics, activity level and medical conditions. Consult with your veterinarian before placing your pet on a lower calorie diet. (Source: http://www.petobesityprevention.com/pet-caloric-needs/)
Use a smaller scoop and food bowl
Studies have shown that the size of your pet’s bowl and food scoop affects the amount of food that you feed your pet. If you have a Chihuahua and you are using an 8 inch bowl, you are probably going to overfeed Chico quite a bit. It all has to with how much food you perceive is in the bowl. If you used a small dish, you would perceive that you were feeding more food. If you are trying to help your pet lose weight, using a smaller bowl and a smaller scoop will go a long way towards helping them reach their goals.
Keep track of snacks
Many people are feeding the right amount of kibble for their dog’s appropriate weight, but they might also be feeding them a dozen milk bones or bites of “people food” throughout the day. Don’t forget that the treats and snacks that you feed your pet throughout the day should also count towards their daily calorie intake. That includes treats used for training! If you pet isn’t a picky eater, try using carrot sticks, apple slices or celery as a substitute for high calorie treats. They’re natural, whole foods and low in calories, and most pets love them.
Divvy it up
If you feel that your pet seems hungry throughout the day, try dividing up your pet’s meals into smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day. Before you schedule your pet for 4 meals a day, a word of caution: your pet has probably trained you into feeding him when he does something specific. For example: Bear knows that if he sits next to the treat jar looking sad, I will probably hand him a cookie or if my cats meow at the top of their lungs for an hour, I’ll provide them with a scoop of kibble or two. My pets are likely not actually hungry, but they are repeating behaviors that in the past has been rewarded with a treat or extra meal. Try not to give in, redirect them with a game or go for a quick walk if they’re particularly relentless.
Eat more veggies
Supplement meals with fresh or frozen vegetables or low calorie fruits. The added fiber in the vegetables will help your pet feel fuller, longer. Don’t feed your pet foods that may be toxic, like tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, garlic, avocados, raw or green potatoes, grapes, raisins, or any pits, stems or seeds from fruits. I also tend avoid corn, since it is a common pet allergen.