Carrying extra pounds puts undo stress on the body’s joints, digestive, respiratory and cardiovascular systems. Even a few pounds of extra weight can tremendously increase the incidence of painful hip dysplasia and arthritis.
In addition, extra fat can actually act as another organ, increasing inflammation, affecting healthy hormone levels, and contributing to lethargy of cognitive brain function and body energy.
The following tips can be applied to help pets lose weight. Keep in mind that it is always essential to check with your veterinarian, who has personally examined your pet, before implementing any of these ideas. This is not a replacement for a visit to your vet, just some helpful tips.
Dogs and cats should have a visible waistline that tucks up behind the broader chest. You should easily be able to feel and count the ribs with gentle to moderate pressure when petting them. If you cannot feel and count ribs, or feel a waist, they are bigger than they should be.
However, a highly visible rib cage without touch is too thin. Pets with hip dysplasia should ideally be just towards the "under weight" side, rather than ideal.
It can often be difficult to recognize where there are blind spots in over-feeding our pets. Here are the most common:
- feeding too much food
- free feeding (leaving food out all the time)
- too many treats
- too many table scraps
- multiple members of family feeding pet
- scavenging when unattended-- either outside (including pooh!) or counter-surfing
- eating other pets' food, such as kitty's
- feeding too fatty/high calorie content for age/lifestyle
- feeding too many carbohydrates
- not feeding enough vegetables and good fibers
- inappropriate nutrition
Measure the food you give to your pet. Often the package recommendations over estimate how much you should be feeding. Also, pets need to be fed based on their ideal weight, not their obese weight.
For example, if the bag of food recommends 1½ cups daily for a 30 pound dog, but your dog’s ideal weight is actually 22 pounds, do not feed to maintain 30 pounds. Also, remember that the total daily recommendation is often best split into two daily meals—not doubled into two meals daily.
- Cut back on portion size by half. Add in raw or slightly steamed veggies such as green beans, zucchini, chard, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, shredded cabbage, oat grass, catnip, green peppers, or canned or cooked pumpkin or squash to help them feel satiated if still begging.
- Vegetables such as green beans make a great treat instead of higher calorie expensive treats. If a pet is “picky” they are being fed more than they need. Hungry dogs are not picky!
Many pets are not getting as much exercise as they should. This means they need less calories—anything in excess of what they can utilize immediately will turn into fat.
Increasing exercise, active playtime & massage can help pets to move more and lose weight. Many herbal remedies can also be useful. Have your pet checked for hormone disorders and joint stiffness that may be affecting their desire to move around more. Tall scratching posts, window perches, and interactive toys are helpful for cats to keep them engaged.
During less active times, feed less. During heavy hiking, pregnancy, lactation, or if fighting an infection or cancer, more calories are needed.
Do NOT over feed puppies, especially middle to large breed dogs, as this increases their chance of hip dysplasia and other degenerative joint problems.
- Minimize carbohydrates such as potatoes, GMO grains (wheat, corn, soy), pasta etc. Dogs, and cats in particular, have no to minimal carbohydrate requirements.
- Minimize treats---these calories add up. Give praise and attention or an extra walk to show your love instead.
- When changing foods, you may need to be patient to get pets to try a new food. Often mixing in some of the favorite food on top of the new food will help them transition.
- Certain foods can actually increase hunger and are addicting. Wheat has been genetically modified for decades to stimulate opiate receptors in the gut. Just like people who only eat fast foods high in fat and not much nutrition, pets can be overweight but malnourished.
Consult with your holistic veterinarian who can help you make wise decisions about how to feed healthy, nurturing, chemical-free foods and treats.