POV: You are sitting at the table with your entire family on Thanksgiving Day and everyone has tons of Thanksgiving fixings on their plates. You have a feeling that someone is staring at you, and of course that staring sensation is coming from the eyes of the family dog. Poor Skippy cannot enjoy Thanksgiving with a plate of delicious food, so you give him a piece of turkey… or two. Little do you know that everyone at the table is also giving Skippy pieces of their thanksgiving meal. In the event that you did not have to take Skippy to the local veterinary hospital for pancreatitis from this thanksgiving feast, you take him to the vet the following week. His veterinarian is surprised that Skippy has put on a few more pounds since his last visit. You may wonder why your veterinarian is concerned about this excess weight and we are here to explain why!
Why is your veterinarian concerned about your pet’s weight?
Obesity in pets can lead to a variety of complications in your pet’s life. Obese pets develop an increased risk for cancer, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, osteoarthritis, and urinary bladder stones. Your veterinarian wants to help you achieve a happy and healthy lifestyle for your pet, and there are many ways to do this even while trying to help your furry friend lose some weight.
Is diet the only factor that causes obesity in pets?
Believe it or not, diet is not the only factor that can contribute to obesity. There are many factors that may predispose a pet to obesity such as genetics, amount of physical activity, and caloric intake. Certain medical problems such as hypothyroidism may also contribute to weight gain in your pet. It is always a good idea to make an appointment with your veterinarian if you believe your pet is overweight so that they can rule out these medical conditions.
What strategies are available to help pets lose weight?
The best way to find out how much to feed your pet is to ask your veterinarian.
- The portion recommendation on the back of your pet’s kibble is typically more than your pet actually needs.
- The average caloric intake for a 10lb cat is between 216-260 kcals a day, depending on their activity level. Despite popular opinion, cats maintain weight better on wet food because it mimics their natural diet of high water, fat and protein content.
- The average caloric intake for a 50lb dog is between 751-1165 kcals a day, depending on activity level and breed. If we compare an active Labrador retriever to an idle bulldog, their calorie intake should be very different due to their activity levels.
- Going on a long walk or playing a nice game of fetch is great exercise for your dog.
- For cats, wand toys or using a small amount of kibble for hunting games can really get them moving.
- For pets that live a sedentary lifestyle even getting them to move for just a few minutes, 2-3 times a day can help.
- Using enrichment toys when feeding such as slow-feeder bowls and snuffle mats can help slow your pet from eating too quickly and provide a sense of enrichment to their everyday life.
Limit the treats:
- Treats should be no more than 5-10% of your pet’s calorie intake. It is best to purchase low-calorie treats for your pet so you can still give them the rewards they deserve.
- Most cat treats are between 1-4 calories per treat which is considered low-calorie. Considering cats need only 200 calories per day and that a cup of dry food or a full can of wet food already supplies their needs, the additional calories from treats can add up.
- Dog treats come in a variety of sizes and calorie content. For instance, there are 139 calories in a large Greenie Dental Chew and there are 145 calories in a large Milk Bone Biscuit. For dogs, a low-calorie treat would be under 10-15 calories.
Restrict the table food:
- We know it can be hard to resist saying no to your begging dog at dinnertime, but it is important to resist those sad eyes. Table food adds excess calories to your pet’s diet on top of any treats and kibble you provide for them.