We all love to spoil our beloved pets with toys and snacks, but sometimes we need to remember that too many treats can be detrimental to their health. If you’ve noticed your dog has developed a bit of a waddle when they walk, or that you can no longer feel ribs when you pet your cat’s sides, your furry little pal may have a weight problem.
And yes, it is a problem. Extra weight on pets is unhealthy, and can lead to joint problems, arthritis, respiratory issues, back and hip pain, cancer and even diabetes. Just as with people, it’s important for pets to exercise regularly and control their caloric intake to stay fit.
To help you keep your puppy or kitty healthy and happy from the very start, or to help an older pet find their way back to fitness, we’ve compiled a list of 5 useful tips for you.
- Start Young—
Watch your pet’s food intake and weigh them regularly from an early age. If you notice a weight problem early, it’s much easier to adjust diet and exercise to halt the progression of weight gain before it becomes a problem than it is to lose weight after the pet is already obese.
Read the labels on your pet’s food and do your research so you can give your particular size, age and breed of animal the correct amount.
- Watch the Treats—
They love the treats and you love to make them happy, so it feels like a win-win for everybody. But too much of this seemingly win-win situation can very quickly turn into the need to lose-lose for your pet.
Experts recommend that if you must give treats, pay attention to the amount of calories you’re giving, and remove that amount from your pet’s other food sources.
- People Food is for People—
Only humans should be eating human food: no exceptions. Giving pets people food will only cause obesity and bad manners for them.
Once they develop a taste for it, and realize they can get it from you, your very smart animals will plead, whine and intently stare every time you eat. What was once cute quickly becomes annoying, and you have nobody to blame but yourself for reinforcing the bad habit of begging.
It’s best to avoid this unhealthy headache from the beginning by never feeding them anything but pet food.
- Exercise is Excellent—
If you’ve adjusted your pet’s diet and want to speed up the weight loss process, or simply want to keep them glowing with good health, finding ways to get them more exercise will help them, and will be great for you as well. Bonus!
If you have a dog, this can mean taking them on extra walks, throwing a ball or chew toy, or finding a safely fenced-in dog park where they can run freely and be stimulated by others of their kind.
To get a cat more exercise, laser pointers can entice them to chase the red dot around, feathers dangling from a stick can stir them up, and adding a cat condo can entice them to climb around more.
- Utilize Your Veterinarian—
Veterinarians generally do what they do because they love animals, and are more than happy to help you figure out a plan to maximize the health of your pet.
Consult with your vet to determine your pet’s fitness level and figure out a weight management plan specific to your pet’s particular needs. An expert can evaluate exactly where your pet should be physically, and the best way to get there.
Studies estimate that 40-50% of pets in the United States are overweight, and this obesity puts them at risk for many health problems, as well as reducing the length and quality of their life.
Do your pets a favor by keeping them on a smart diet and exercise plan so they can feel good and be with you for a long, long time.