When Food = Love
How to maintain a healthy weight for your pet
Sharing food with our beloved pets can bring great joy to both parties. Unfortunately, food and treats can be a side effect of too much love, leading pets to become overweight or obese. Here are some tips and tricks for sharing snacks while still keeping your pets lean and healthy:
- Determine if your pet is a good weight: A “body condition score” is a way of assessing if a dog or cat is an appropriate weight (see links below). You can also ask your veterinarian for guidance with this. If your pet is not an appropriate weight, consult with a veterinarian to ensure there are no other underlying medical conditions that need to be addressed.
- Place daily food allowance in a container on the counter: Instead of fighting with overzealous family members who want to continue feeding pets throughout the day, consider placing the daily allotment of dry food or treats on the counter each morning. This gives clear guidance on how much to feed the furry family member during the day without the guilt or worry of overfeeding. Plus, your dog or cat will usually enjoy getting a few kibbles or treats spread out over the day rather than all at once.
- Feed low calorie snacks such as vegetables: Many dogs (and even some cats!) like vegetable or fruits in small amounts. Snacks, always in moderation, such as frozen string beans, can provide a tasty reward and connection between owner and pet while adding very few calories.
- Look for hidden high calorie sources: Check out the number of calories in treats and chews. Particularly, chews can contain a shockingly high number of calories. If your dog is a big chewer, consider a rubber chew toy that you can fill with a small amount of a low calorie treat such as fruits/vegetables (bananas and canned pure pumpkin work well) or even their normal food.
- Consider a lower calorie diet: Ask your veterinarian if a diet change is appropriate for your dog or cat. Some diets, including some veterinary prescription diets, are less calorically dense so that your dog or cat can still enjoy the same quantity of food while receiving less calories. (Think of eating a small hamburger versus a large salad loaded with vegetables and lean protein.)
- Increase play time! While maintaining appropriate caloric intake is paramount to a healthy body weight, increasing activity through play or walks is another great option to incorporate. Not only does this help encourage good body and muscle conditioning, but is a wonderful bonding activity to enjoy with your pet. Ensure that any new activities are started slowly and that your veterinarian deems your pet healthy to perform them. And remember to be patient. Just like humans, dogs and cats can’t change from couch potato to marathon runner overnight.
– Dr. Emily Andersen, DVM, CVA, CVFT
Owner, ComfortABLE Critters Veterinary Care PLLC
Body Condition Score for Cats:
Body Condition Score for Dogs: