Excess weight is an increasingly common problem among cats and dogs. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), over 50% of pets in the United States are overweight or obese.
Do you have an overweight dog or cat?
Many pet owners don't realize their pet is overweight, and that can be costly for a pet's health and an owner's wallet.
Trupanion data reveals that policyholders with overweight dogs or cats spend as much as five times more than policyholders with average weight pets on veterinary expenses for musculoskeletal ailments such as cruciate ruptures, lameness, and limping.
Obese pets are also more prone to diabetes. Trupanion found that policyholders with obese dogs or cats spend over 10 times more on diabetes treatment than pet owners of pets at an average weight.
The good news is that you can help your pet maintain a healthy weight.
How to check your pet's weight
When running your hands along your pet’s chest, you should be able to easily feel their ribs with slight padding.
If the ribs protrude or are undetectable, your pet is likely at an unhealthy weight.
Tip: Some breeds have more visible ribs than others, and it’s harder to feel the ribs of dogs with long or thick hair.
Your veterinarian can help you identify and safely manage your pet’s weight.
It’s easier to maintain a healthy weight than it is to lose excess weight. In humans and pets alike, the key to weight loss is to remain committed and dedicated, and to combine healthy eating with regular physical activity. Just a few pounds above your cat or dog's ideal weight can put them at risk for developing serious medical conditions including diabetes, respiratory and heart disease, joint problems, and a shorter life expectancy.1
Tip: Check with your veterinarian before embarking on any diet program. They can ensure your pet loses weight safely, and that excess weight is not a side effect of a medication or an underlying medical condition.
9 trim down tips for your obese dog or cat
- Swap for fruits and veggies. Use pet-safe fruits and veggies as treats and to supplement your pet’s smaller-portioned meals.2 Not only do they provide nutrition, they can also help your pet feel fuller without all of the calories.
- Portion control starts with calorie counting. Talk to your veterinarian about your pet’s caloric needs and measure portions of food for your pet instead of free pouring or “eye-balling” it. Be sure that everyone in the family who feeds your pet uses the same measuring scoop!
- Cut back on snacking between meals. The calories in common treats for pets can really add up; they should only make up about 10% of your pet’s caloric intake. Cut up small pieces of fruits and veggies, such as apples, carrots, or bananas for yummy treats with fewer calories.
- Get into a routine. If you feed your pet at the same time every day, they will learn to expect food at that time and be less likely to beg for food throughout the day.
- Don’t make quick, drastic changes. Gradually transition your pet to their diet food over one or two weeks by combining it with their current food.
- Just because it's diet food, doesn’t mean it can’t taste good. Try warming up food, adding oregano, mashed pumpkin or sweet potato, or a splash of a fish oil supplement, chicken broth, or salmon juice to make diet food more enticing.
- Control cravings with distractions. When your pet begs for food, divert their attention to something else they enjoy, like taking a walk, playing with a ball or toy, or simply enjoying some good old-fashioned TLC from their favorite person — you!
- Don’t eat where you sleep. Place your pet’s food bowl far away from their favorite spot to lounge so they have to get up and move during the day.
- Make them work for their food. There are several different toys that you can fill with kibble that make your pet put in a little effort for their meal. These toys keep them busy and prevent them from gobbling up their dinner in record time.
1. Source: www.avma.org Collections on Obesity in Dogs
2. Always consult your veterinarian for a list of the best foods to feed your pet.
Pudgy pets shouldn't be taken lightly
We've put together an infographic to show you what medical conditions of an overweight pet could cost.
Treats should not replace normal meals, but can be part of a balanced diet. See the links below for a variety of healthy, homemade treat recipes and a list of pet-safe fruits and veggies to feed your pet: