For many pet parents, food = love. There’s something satisfying about watching your pup do a dance and wag his tail for a piece of bacon, or the way your kitty sleeps so soundly after eating lasagna like a real-life Garfield. Providing food to our fur babies fulfills a deep parenting instinct, even between species. However, while a chubby pet may be cute and make for good cuddling, the health risks for heavy dogs and cats are alarming.
Risks of Being Overweight (Number 4 Is The Worst)
Joint problems: All that extra weight leads to torn ligaments and arthritis.
Diabetes: Many fat pets become diabetic and need insulin to survive. While treatable, this disease takes significant effort to manage, and sometimes requires hospitalization.
Heart and breathing problems: Fat makes it harder for the heart to pump blood and restricts breathing. These issues can increase the chances of heart failure in the long run, or increase risks of heat stroke in the short-term.
Shorter life: Yes, you read that correctly. Studies show that overweight pets live about 2 years less than leaner pets.
Tips for Healthy Weight
Look at the animal before the numbers on the scale.
You should be able to feel your pet’s ribs easily but not see them. A dog or cat should also have a defined waist. If this isn’t the case with your pet, then chances are good that he or she is overweight.
You are in control.
One of the wonderful things about pets is that aren’t going into the fridge for a late night snack, or buying Cheetos at the grocery store. Be honest with yourself. Remember that almost everything your pet eats is provided by you, the pet owner.
Watch those portions.
Many times we forget how small our pets are relative to us. If we gain three pounds, it’s not very noticeable, but if a little chihuahua gains three pounds, it could mean a doubling of body weight! The same concept is important with portions. A bite-sized snack to you could be the same as a full portion of food to a little dog. Be sure to use a standard measuring cup to feed your pet.
Think again about free feeding.
While free feeding can work fine with puppies and kittens, as our animals stop growing, they need less calories. Many pets will overeat if they are given the choice. Don’t be afraid to switch to a measured out breakfast and dinner for your free-feeding friend. If they don’t eat the food right away, take it away and try again in the evening. After a few days, they will get the hang of the new routine.
Cut back on the human food.
Often, simply eliminating human food will shed those love handles. Human food can also cause vomiting and diarrhea, especially high fat foods and dairy products like milk and cheese. If you want to give a treat, try green beans and carrots. Many dogs love the crunch!
Get out and enjoy the day, or play in the house.
Dogs are a great reason to go outside for a walk and take a break from life’s daily demands. Walking is not only good for mental health, but also helps burn calories for you and your pet.
If you have a cat, use toys to keep them active. Having a variety of toys keeps things fun. If your cat is food motivated, then throwing pieces of kibble for them to run after, or using a kibble dispensing ball is an excellent way to combine exercise and eating.
Consider a prescription diet.
If you have a heavy pet, then the good news is that that there are diets designed by veterinarians to help pets lose weight. After getting to a healthy weight, you may be able to switch back to a regular diet.
A Disease Could Be Making Your Dog Fat
Some dogs have hormonal imbalances that lead to serious weight gain. Even with a diet, they will still be heavy and have low energy. If none of the above tips are helping, your dog may need medication to treat an underlying condition, which can be diagnosed by your vet.
Lean Pets Live Longer
The usual thought is that food = love, but really, love is about doing what’s right for your furry friends. Sometimes, this means giving them what they need rather than what they want.
Fortunately, you have the power to make a change. Call your veterinarian today. Together, you can determine a goal weight for your pet, rule-out possible medical causes of weight gain, and design a diet and exercise plan that is sure to be a success.