Tips for Effective Weight Management

Part of responsible pet ownership is ensuring that your pet is maintaining a healthy weight. In the United States, it is estimated that 56 percent of dogs and 60 percent of cats are overweight or obese. With obesity comes major health risks, including diabetes, osteoarthritis, kidney disease, respiratory disease, and certain types of cancer.

Keeping your pet’s weight in-check requires a combination of proper nutrition, exercise and preventative care. Check out the tips below to ensure your dog or cat stays healthy:

  • Review the feeding guidelines on a pet food package, consult with your veterinarian, and measure out the appropriate amount of food at each meal. The recommended quantities of food will vary depending on a pet’s size, age, lifestyle, breed, and whether he or she is spayed or neutered. To avoid overfeeding, use a measuring cup or exact scoop to ensure you’re providing the correct amount of food at every meal.
  • Look for “complete and balanced” on the pet food label. Most commercial pet food is designed to be complete and balanced, which means each serving provides the 40 nutrients that are essential for cats and dogs in the proper amounts for the life stage of the animal. However, not all pet food meets these nutritional profiles, and data indicates that many homemade recipes are nutritionally deficient.
  • Treats and chews should only account for 10 percent of a pet’s daily caloric intake and should not be a replacement for pet food. Be sure to treat responsibly!
  • Paying close attention to your pet’s weight is the best way to catch a problem early. Try an at-home pet weight check, or learn how veterinarians do the knuckle-test, to determine if your pet is or may be becoming overweight.
  • Engage in regular exercise with your pets to not only help manage their weight but also support strong muscles and joints. Get ideas for keeping pets active in the winter and all year long.
  • Schedule regular check-ups with your pet’s veterinarian to discuss your pet’s weight management. Your veterinarian will be able to help you determine if your pet is over or underweight and can advise on your pet’s diet and exercise routine.

Pet Exercise

Exercise is an additional component in ensuring pet health and well-being. Not only does exercise help pets maintain a healthy weight, but it also helps build and maintain muscle tone, keep ligaments and tendons flexible, and stimulates pets’ brains.

Regular exercise also strengthens your bond with your pet, and studies show that having a pet can help pet owners stay more physically active, too. Below are a few ideas for keeping cats and dogs active and engaged:

Dog Exercises:

  • Basic obedience training
  • Teaching your dog to swim
  • Playing hide and seek to engage the brain
  • Running, walking or biking with your dog
  • Engaging in dog sports, like chasing a flying disc, tracking and agility challenges

Cat Exercises:

  • Setting up a cat tower with small treats to encourage climbing and playing
  • Keeping plenty of household toys around to encourage play
  • Using a laser pointer, flashlight or wand-style toy for interactive exercises
  • Tempting your cat with hidden treats in a toy for batting and knocking practice

Responsible Treating

Pet lovers use treats and chews in several ways—as training aids or rewards for good behavior, to support exercise, to provide long-lasting occupation, and sometimes just as a special treat. Treating pets results in a strengthened bond between humans and their four-legged family members.

When feeding treats to pets, keep these guidelines in mind:

  • Feed treats in moderation. It is recommended that no more than 10 percent of a pet’s caloric intake come from treats and for pet parents to refer to the feeding guidelines on the treat package.
  • Use pet treats alongside a complete and balanced diet. Pets require a complete and balanced diet containing the vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and proteins and amino acids in the proper amounts for the pet’s specific life stage.
  • To help keep dogs safe, supervise when they are enjoying a chew. In addition, to mitigate the rare chance of choking, pet lovers should look for chews recommended for the size of their dog, and make sure the chew is slightly larger than their dog’s mouth.
  • Avoid feeding table scraps to pets as treats. Table scraps can contribute to pet obesity, and many human foods can disrupt pets’ balanced diets and cause digestive upset. Some human foods can cause serious health problems in a cat or dog, such as a dramatic decrease in blood sugar, or liver failure.

Treats can be a useful motivator and provide behavioral reinforcement during the training process. Some dog trainers have noted that particularly strong-smelling treats can be especially useful in the training and obedience process and can engage dogs’ strong sense of smell.

Remember, sometimes a treat that smells delicious to your pet may not smell quite so appetizing to you, but it may help with training!