Is your doggy or kitty turning into a rolly polly?
Here are some things you can try at home to help them lose some excess fat and stay nice and lean.
Firstly, check the back of the cat or dog food bag to see how much you should be feeding. Most people just guesstimate (I used to as well), however, petfood companies have already calculated your animal’s daily energy requirements based on their age or weight.
That said, please don’t just cut back on how much you are feeding without checking how much they should actually be eating, as you may be depriving them of some vital nutrients and vitamins.
Here are some more useful pet weight-loss options:
Option 1: Split meals into smaller portions.
Research has shown (and this goes for people too) that eating smaller portions more frequently will aid in digestion as well as keep your animal feeling satisfied. Feeding one big meal a day will encourage their body to store fat rather than metabolise it. As well as obesity, this will likely cause heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
In cats, stored fat can cause a condition called fatty liver. When the feline body has been starved from food for a long period of time, stored fat moves into the liver to be processed. However the feline liver was never designed for large amounts of fat, hence why this can cause liver failure. Cats also require larger amounts of protein as they are obligate carnivores (dogs are omnivores), and so long periods without protein can cause a variety of health problems.
Option 2: Hopefully you won’t still be feeding only once a day. But, if you must, please feed in the morning and not late afternoon or night time.
Again, like in humans, if a big meal is consumed in the evening before bed, the body won’t be able to burn off those calories and will be forced to store it.
Quick warning for dog owners: Some people might read this and be like, “Ok, I just fed my dog and I want him to burn off those calories so I’ll take him outside to play real quick before bed.” Don’t exercise your animal immediately after eating. Besides potentially causing vomiting, there is a risk of a much worse condition known as GDV, and this can quickly lead to death if not noticed/treated within a few days.
Option 3: Meal-times.
When you leave food out all day and just keep topping up, you’re most likely over-feeding your animal. Trainers will agree that leaving the food out for a set amount of time will help manage your feedings better. Your pet will learn quickly that after 10/15 minutes food is taken away and this encourages them to eat at the times you set. As with most things you need to be consistent for them to learn.
Option 4: You probably saw this one coming–regular exercise.
For dogs this may be easier than with cats, as you can take them for walks or even a swim in your pool. New interactive toys may help keep them interested and even if they’re just chewing… calories are still being burnt!
Cats are trickier, I know. They don’t generally like to be walked, they definitely hate the water and once they’re past that kitten stage most cats don’t care about new toys. So here’s a fun way to keep them mobile: split up their chow and/or canned meat into small portions and place them in multiple locations. Choose at least 3-5 places they are used to climbing so that they have to exercise to get their food.
Option 5: Cut back on treats! Or, give high fibre treats such as carrots or fruit (not grapes!).
This may be difficult in homes that have children who love to feed pets treats, in which situation you can buy low calorie treats for them to give. Again, just like us, the more we fill up on snacks, the less we feel to eat our regular food. Kong toys are a good idea because they are extremely durable and usually have areas for you to hide treats to keep animals busy for long periods of time.
If after trying these things your animal still doesn’t lose any weight, take them to your local veterinarian as they may have other underlying issues that require treatment. But I’m hoping that’s not the case and your dog or cat can start enjoying a more joyful and healthy life!