Pet obesity is a big problem. In fact, according to a survey published by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), more than half of all American pets were diagnosed as overweight or obese in 2018. Because excess weight puts our pets at risk for joint problems and diseases like diabetes, addressing obesity is paramount. But how? Follow our 10 tips to get your pet on the path toward a fit, healthy lifestyle.
#1: Opt for a nutritious diet
A healthy body starts with high quality, nutritious food. Many reputable commercial diets offer pets optimally balanced foods without the need for supplementation. Ensure that you choose a diet that is tailored to your pet’s life stage and any specific health needs. If your pet is overweight, a weight management diet may be a good fit, but consult our University Veterinary Hospital team before making any changes.
#2: Pay attention to portion size
A healthy diet is a great start, but it only helps keep your pet slim if you feed the proper portion size. While most foods provide feeding guidelines according to a pet’s weight, they are not set in stone. Since each pet has a unique metabolism, use these guides as starting points, but understand they may need adjusting over time. Additionally, pet owners must diligently measure portions—a few extra kibbles can add unnecessary calories for smaller pets. Contact us for guidance on the right portion size for your pet.
#3: Just say “No” to scraps
We know that treating your pet to a scrumptious treat or table scrap is tempting, but try to resist the urge. While an extra bite or two of mom’s macaroni and cheese may not do much to our waistlines, high calorie foods can quickly pack pounds on pets—not to mention, many high fat foods can put pets at risk for dangerous conditions like pancreatitis. Stay safe, and forego the fatty leftovers.
#4: Rethink your pet’s treats
From salty chips to sweet candies, we can purchase loads of junk food in grocery stores—and pet stores are much the same. Rather than grab your usual box of high calorie, preservative-laden pet biscuits, why not try feeding carrots or apple slices as a healthy alternative? Better yet, try whipping up a fun, wholesome recipe like this one.
#5: Choose the right activity for your pet
No two pets are alike, and neither are their exercise preferences. Some dogs can run for miles on a leash, while others prefer agility sports. Younger pets may enjoy jumping and rolling, while senior pets may prefer gentle walks or swimming. Pay attention to your pet’s breed and age, and their play preferences, so you can tailor their exercise regimen accordingly.
#6: Exercise your pet daily
Whichever activity you and your pet choose, do it daily. Whether it’s a romp in the yard, an intense laser pointer chase, or a leisurely stroll, ensure your pet is active for at least 30 minutes a day.
#7: Make physical activity fun
Exercising with your pet should always be enjoyable—for you both. If your pet seems bored or unwilling to get moving, mix up their routine and try something new, such as a new toy, new walking trail, or different dog park. Keeping physical activity fun and engaging will not only help shed excess calories, but will stimulate your pet’s brain, too.
#8: Monitor your pet’s body condition
Your veterinarian is your best resource for evaluating your pet’s body condition, but you can monitor their progress at home, too. Using a scoring tool like this, examine your pet periodically for over-conditioning signs.
#9: Do frequent weigh-ins of your pet
While the number on the scale isn’t everything, it’s a simple, quantitative way to monitor your pet’s weight. If your pet is on a weight loss plan, do weekly weigh-ins until their next recheck, and ensure you report your findings to our veterinary team.
#10: Keep a journal
Food, exercise, and monitoring are all important aspects of managing your pet’s physique, but putting it in writing helps keep you accountable. By keeping track of everything your pet eats and how often they exercise, you and your University Veterinary Hospital veterinarian can work together to see what’s helping, and how you can improve your pet’s weight management plan.
If you still have questions or concerns regarding your pet’s weight management or need individualized advice, contact our veterinary team for guidance. We look forward to working with you on your pet’s weight management journey.