Dr. Maya Pande
How to Help Your Pet Lose Weight
Updated: Sep 15, 2020
*Not actually my husband, but I laugh every time I see this picture!
It depicts a good point though. Obesity is a problem for everyone, including our cats and dogs. Even an extra 2-5 pounds can make a big difference to your cat or dog. A vet once told me that 1 lb on a cat is like 10 lbs on us! This extra weight puts more strain and stress on their joints and legs, leading to an increased chance of arthritis, disc problems and knee injuries. Like us, excess weight makes them feel less energetic and they become more susceptible to diseases like diabetes, and heart disease.
Also like us, they are usually not excited to go on a diet and exercise program. If you haven't met the aptly named Cinder Block, watch this video. (I wish I had a cheerleader like this for my workouts!) Sometimes it's not them that's the problem. It's us! We don't want to deprive Georgie or Max of his treats or make him play when he clearly doesn't want to.
The good news is that it just takes small changes to their habits to make a big impact.
(BTW, you always want to consult your vet about any weight loss plans you have for your pet.)
Things to remember:
Treats have calories. The scraps fed at the table or 'good boy' cookies all add up. Try decreasing the number of treats per day or giving half a biscuit instead of a whole one. They'll know the difference but they'll get used to it. And banish them while you're cooking and eating. Occupy them with a toy or give them their own dinner in another room while you're eating.
Multiple pets means multiple dinners. Your chunky monkey might gulp her food down in order to clean her brother's plate. And ends up getting two dinners. Try a puzzle feeder to slow them down or feed them away from the others. Her healthier, longer life (and hopefully smaller vet bills) will be your reward for all this trouble.
Exercise is important too. It's definitely easier to exercise dogs, but if your pet has a lot of weight to lose, you should start him out slowly. Adding a few minutes to their daily walks will be enough in the beginning. Please note that the starts and stops associated with playing fetch or frisbee can be hard on the joints of an dog with extra weight and can potentially do more harm by causing injuries that would set him back.
Cats will need more creative solutions. However, you don't have to buy a water treadmill. String, crumpled balls of aluminum, paper bags, lasers -- cats are actually pretty easy to please regarding toys. Initially you may only have their attention for a few minutes before they get bored or tired, but keep it up every day. They'll start to play more and have more energy.
Both exercise and diet go hand in hand, but generally, diet is the most important. Slowly decreasing how much goes in makes a big difference in how they look and feel.
Keep in mind and this is important, weight loss should be very gradual -- at the rate of about one pound a month for cats and small dogs and up to 5 lbs a month for large dogs. Losing weight too quickly will put unnecessary strain on their organs causing bigger problems.
Animal chiropractic can help pets of any weight feel better but when a dog or cat is at their optimal weight, they tend to recover from their injuries faster. Being lean can also prevent an issue from becoming chronic (ie constantly recurring) or requiring medication or surgery.
It's up to us to make sure our pets are healthy.