Deciding to take control of your pet’s weight issue is a great start. With support from your local veterinary team and family members (who must all agree to stick to the weight loss regime) helping your pet lose weight doesn’t need to be difficult.
WHY IS BEING OVERWEIGHT A PROBLEM?
Excess weight can lead to heart disease, diabetes, painful joints and a reduced lifespan. Even being slightly overweight can be a problem despite the common misconception that pets need a bit of extra weight as ‘reserves’ for when they are poorly.
LONGER WALKS WILL HELP, RIGHT?
Unfortunately, although exercise can help to improve muscle tone and fitness, increasing exercise duration does not have the huge impact on weight that many of us think it does. The most important factor to control when it comes to weight loss is the total amount of calories consumed. This is especially important for dogs or cats that cannot exercise due to arthritis or other health conditions.
WHAT STEPS CAN I TAKE TO HELP MY PET LOSE WEIGHT?
- REDUCE THEIR CALORIE INTAKE
In order for a dog or cat to lose weight they have to be eating less calories than they need on a daily basis i.e. they burn off more calories than they take in, this is known as a negative energy balance. The feeding guidelines on a pack/can of dog and cat food is the total amount required per 24 hours and includes enough energy for any exercise they may do. General energy needs include calories for exercise and activity, however for weight loss you just need to feed enough calories for the body weight you want your dog or cat to be. A rough rule of thumb is to feed 70% of the feeding guidelines suggested for their target weight. i.e. if your dog is overweight at 15kg but should weigh 10Kg then you should feed the amount suggested for a 7Kg dog.
- KNOW HOW MANY CALORIES THEY NEED & COUNT THEM
The more accurate way to calculate feeding amounts is to use an online calculator or speak to your practice veterinary nurse to work out how many calories and how much food your pet should be eating per day. You need to feed the amount suggested for your dog or cat’s ideal/target weight not their current weight.
- KNOW HOW MANY CALORIES ARE IN WHAT YOU’RE FEEDING
In addition to knowing how many calories your dog or cat requires, you also need to know how many calories are in the food, treats and any other rewards you give. We will be posting a new blog on how to work this out shortly, however you can also phone the manufacturer helpline on your bag of food or ask your local veterinary team to help with calculations.
- CONSIDER A CHANGE IN DIET
You might want to consider changing your pet to a ‘light’ or weight control diet. To help control their hunger these diets often have added fibre and/or increased protein levels and a lower calorie content per 100g. This will allow you to cut down on the volume of food without them feeling like they are being starved. For more information, see our article on ingredients to look for in weight reduction diets.
- WEIGH OUT THE FOOD
Studies have shown that the amount of food can be overestimated by up to 80% when using cups, so for accuracy we recommend using kitchen weighing scales to weigh out daily portions.
- IT IS STILL OKAY TO FEED TREATS
Yes! Feeding treats is an important part of your relationship with your pet and it is completely allowed. Just be sure to include any treats, chews or table scraps in the daily recommended amount of calories you feed.
- COPE WITH PESTER POWER!
Deal with those big brown eyes and ‘that look’ by making mealtimes fun instead of just giving them an extra treat.Puzzle feeders or scatter feeding can help slow down greedy eaters and enrich mealtimes to prevent boredom. You might also find that splitting the daily amount up will help. For adult dogs we suggest splitting the daily amount into 2-3 meals per day. For cats you can allow them to graze or offer small frequent meals as long as the daily amount is adhered to.
Check your pets weight every 2-3 weeks. The ideal weight loss is 3-5% of their body weight per month. If there is no weight loss after 3 weeks then you might need to readjust the feeding amounts.
- DON’T HESITATE TO ASK FOR HELP
We are here to help! Contact us if you are concerned about your pet’s weight.