Is your pooch a little ponchy? Sometimes, it is hard to know exactly if your pet is overweight, besides going to the yearly vet visit and getting told your pal needs to lose some pounds. How do you go about tracking the weight in between visits to ensure a long and healthy life for your best friend, and what do you do to help them lose those extra pounds?
Luckily, there are charts you can look at to assess if your pet is indeed in need of a change in life routine, like this one from the American Veterinary Medical Association:
Another thing you can do is: first, weigh yourself (I know this one is really scary), then grab your animal, if you can, and get back on the scale. Take the difference in weights, and that is the weight of your pet! Compare that number to the number the vet gave you for a healthy weight and work from there. Keep in mind that every pet's ideal body is different, especially dogs, compare a pug to a greyhound! Keep a log of their weight, generally speaking a dog can reach their ideal weight in 6-8 months.
So what do you do if your pet is chunky? Look at their diet, are you adjusting what they get fed for meals if they get a lot of treats and chews? Treats should make up no more than 10% of your pets daily calorie intake. If you are doing raw bones, it can be between 10-25% of calorie intake. If you're feeding dry food, look at the back of the bag at the recommended feeding section. Sometimes, they recommend too much food for your dog, the measurements are generalizations, and every dog is different. I always recommend starting at the least amount of food for your pets' ideal size and weight and go from there. If they are still overweight, adjust it accordingly. Are they getting human foods, if so, stop. Cheese, for example, is a tasty treat but a normal amount for a human is a HUGE amount for a dog or cat. Some human foods are okay like: eggs, coconut oil, and even cottage cheese in small amounts, but make sure you are adjusting their normal meals if they get that special snack. Type of food can play a role in weight as well. For example: My cat, Adipose, was on a dry food diet roughly 3 years ago and he started getting a little tummy pooch, which is not as common for male cats. I started working for Urban Tails around that time and learned more about nutrition and eventually transitioned him to a wet food diet. I noticed a change in his weight within the next 6 months. Now he is eating a mixture of wet and raw food and is long, lean, and handsome (not that he wasn't handsome before). I have noticed with a few cats that dry food seemed to stack on the pounds, it could be the excess carbs in the dry food that are not present in the wet food.
Let's talk about exercise! It is important for their bodies, but also their minds. Is your dog being destructive in the house? Try adding another walk, or Frisbee session into your routine. Is your cat round, and not enjoying life as much? Interact with them with a wand toy, you can also use a laser, but make sure they get a reward after you are done (cats like seeing the results of their hunting or else they get frustrated). You can also do what I did, and get another cat for your cat, but sometimes they take their play sessions too far and break potted plants. We also sell these handy dandy hunting mice in the store made by Doc & Phoebe's Cat Co. You can put some food or treats in the mice, then hide them around your house to mimic the hunting experience. Betty and Veronica love them!
Remember, your pet being overweight is not a reflection on you. The fact that you care and are willing to change your fluffy friend's life for the better shows a lot! Sometimes they give you those doe eyes, or meow incessantly, but be strong! Keep in mind that you are doing this for them and their quality of life, they just don't know that (when will science give us the dog translators we need and deserve). Extra weight on a dog or cat can reduce their life expectancy by as much as two years. Make sure the whole family is in on the task, and make it fun. What is more fun than a cat wigging out over a feather attached to a string? NOTHING.