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Getting Your Dog or Cat to Lose Weight

By Madeleine Burry. July 10, 2012 | See Comments

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    PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian

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Getting Your Dog or Cat to Lose Weight

Getting your pet to shed some pounds requires consistency and dedication. Learn the tricks and tips you need to get your pet back into shape here.

When cats and dogs gain weight, it’s generally the result of excessive eating and insufficient exercise. So it should come as no surprise that to help pets take off the pounds, you’ll need to increase their amount of exercise, and decrease their amount of food. Before instituting any major change to your pet’s diet or exercise regimen, please take some time to consult with your veterinarian about the best weight loss strategy. In general, it’s best for dietary shifts and increased exercise to be implemented gradually.

Changes to Diet & Feeding Habits

Making the following adjustments to how your pet is provided with food can make a huge difference to the amount of calories being ingested.

Switch Foods

It’s worth taking the time to check the ingredients on the primary food your pet eats. A nutritionally sound food will list meat at the main ingredient, and not a meat by-product. Avoid foods that have a carbohydrate, such as grains or corn, as the primary ingredient.

Stop Feeding Pets Human Food

It’s easy to give pets scraps of your food, especially since they seem to want it to so badly. But even small scraps of human food can add up to lots of extra calories. Giving a pet your leftovers for dinner can allow them to cherry-pick the high calorie items - even if  it looks like not much was eaten, your pet may have ingested a significant amount of calories.

Reduce & Switch Treats

It’s worth repeating: Food is not love. Treats are a nice way to reward your pet’s good behavior and a helpful training tool. However, giving your pet treats to show affection can easily introduce lots of extra calories to your pet’s diet, especially if you feel particularly affectionate toward your cat or dog. Try praising pets in some of the situations when you’d normally give out a treat. Also check on the ingredients within the treats - just like the snacks that people eat, pet treats are often an unhealthy choice. Look for options that are low fat, and keep in mind that treats should be a very small percentage of your pet’s total dietary intake.

Portion Control

Pouring food into a bowl can be deceptive. Is that really a cup, or have you strayed over? Just a little bit extra food each day can make a big difference. Measure your pet’s food, whether it’s wet or dry, and provide the same amount of food daily. Keep in mind also that the guidelines on the pet food packaging are not always precise - your vet can help you determine the right amount of food for your pet.

Feed Pets Several Small Meals

For pets that are overweight, the “free food” method, with food constantly available, may not work well, since pets may have trouble self-regulating how much they eat. Instead, feed your cat or dog several small meals throughout the day.

Exercise and Move Around

Food plays a big role in weight gain, but a lack of exercise could also be the reason your cat or dog is growing in size. Walking, jogging, swimming, playing fetch, and hiking are all great ways to get your dog to burn off calories. (Some fitness options may make more sense for some breeds than others.) Avoid shocking your dog’s system and do not institute a vigorous exercise routine abruptly. Build up exercise tolerance slowly -- get your dog accustomed to a long daily walk before going on a strenuous hike. During the summer heat, too, be conscious that dogs can’t sweat to cool off, and avoid overdoing it, since that can lead to heat exhaustion. With cats, try playing games - use a laser pointer to encourage cats to jump and frolic around, or try toys covered in catnip or even something as simple as an empty paper bag or crumpled piece of paper for them to chase around. Also try providing a cat tree or cat climbing furniture.

More on Diets for Weight Loss

6 Foods that Help Your Pet Burn Fat

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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