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Tips for Healthy Weight Loss

Feb 24, 2016

Long-term studies have shown that pets of an ideal body weight live up to two years longer than their overweight counterparts. While it is harder to lose weight than prevent weight gain it is never too late to start a weight loss plan for your pet. Numerous long-term health problems including diabetes, respiratory and heart disease, arthritis, high blood pressure, and some forms of cancer can result from being overweight and obese.

Here are some tips for healthy weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight.

1. Visit your veterinarian to determine if your pet is an ideal weight, if there could be any medical conditions causing your pet to be overweight, and what an ideal body weight is for your pet.

2. Determine how much your dog or cat eats. This includes everything that enters their mouth, including food, treats, and any human food.

3. No more “free-choice” meals, meaning all day access to food. Pets do better with 2-4 small meals a day. One option for feeding is using a timed automatic feeder, which gives an allotted amount of food at specified times. These are also helpful because dogs and cats start to look to the feeder for food rather than begging from the owner. You can also use puzzle toys that slow down how fast your pet eats and can also require your pet to burn calories while eating.

4. Reduce food consumed by 20%. This often means cutting back on treats and reducing that amount of food offered. Often a change in diet is needed to help with weight loss. It is possible to cut back on food too much and restrict required nutrients for your pet. There are over-the-counter “weight management” diets available, but there is nothing regulating the amount of calories in these foods and they can often still be high calorie. There are prescription weight loss diets available that are low calorie and nutrient dense. Consult with a veterinarian to determine the best diet for your pet and how much food you should be feeding.

5. Cut back on treats. All too often pet owners associate giving food and treats with love. This notion needs to be changed. Your dog or cat will still love you and appreciate your attention just as much if it comes in a different form. The best replacement for treats when trying to lose weight is exercise. Exercise releases endorphins and makes you and your pet happy.

6. More exercise. In order to lose weight your pet must burn more calories than consumed. Exercise is also a great way for you and your pet to bond. Exercise is typically easier accomplished with dogs – going on a walk or playing fetch, but some cats with fetch or chase toys as well. Another great time for exercise is actually meal time, which can be made into exercise for both dogs and cats. You can get puzzle toys as mentioned above, or you can you can place small piles of food all around the house and make your pet hunt for food – this is actually one of the most natural ways for pets to eat. You can also throw kibbles and have your pet play chase with their food rather than having them eat out of a food bowl.

7. Finally, Weight checks! This is your opportunity to celebrate that your pet is losing weight or learn that you need to take additional steps to help with weight loss. Without routine weight checks most weight loss plans are doomed to failure. A good goal is 1% weight loss per week. 0.5% per week is acceptable and >2% per week is too fast and can lead to muscle loss or liver disease. We offer free weight checks at our clinic if you call ahead.


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