Fat Cat or Portly Pup? Get your pet Lean and Healthy!
Is your pet carrying around a little or a lot of extra weight? Those rotund bodies may look cute, but every extra pound that a dog or cat carries brings with it a decreased life span and the risks of arthritis, diabetes and heart disease, just to name a few. Bonding with our pets by constantly giving them treats, or just way too much food, is an easy trap to fall into, especially with rescued animals who may have been starved or forced to eat any scraps they could find just to survive. We want to make our pets happy and feel loved, and the positive reinforcement we get from feeding and treating our pets, via their wagging tails and charming vocalizations, only exacerbates the situation.
The good news is that solving the problem is easy: diet and exercise. Just like us humans, increased physical activity and fewer calories is all it takes for chunky pets to start shedding those pounds.
The first step to getting your pet healthy and lean is to schedule a vet appointment to determine just how overweight your pet is, and if there are any underlying health issues causing the weight gain. Your vet can provide an estimate of the number of calories your pet will need on a daily basis to start shedding weight. Don’t just follow the recommendations on the pet food can or box – food manufacturers are notorious for recommending too much food, given that they stand to profit from you over feeding your pet. Besides the wet or dry food you’re feeding your animal, you also need to count in those cat treats or doggy biscuits. You can feed your pet treats (jusani.com offers healthy pet treats for cats and dogs), but the total calories per day that your pet consumes should not exceed your vet’s recommendations.
The second step is to get your pet moving. Cats and dogs make this easy for us – they love to play, so all we have to do is take the time to engage with our pets in daily exercise sessions. Bringing home a few inexpensive toys will pay off immensely, but don't make the mistake of assuming your pets will play by themselves when you drop the toys on the ground and walk off. You need to interact with them to get them moving, and you may even have some fun.
The third step is to immediately squelch your desire to feed your pet treats when the begging begins. By feeding your animal when it begs, you are reinforcing the begging behavior. Wait until your pet is not begging to give them a treat, and preferably in conjunction with a desired behavior, like sitting on command. Voila - that’s the basis of pet training!
Once you get your pet to a healthy weight, you can’t abandon the routine. You may be able to feed your animal more to maintain their weight, but those pounds can creep up quickly and you could easily sabotage any progress you’ve made. Your pet will be happier and healthier at an appropriate weight, so don’t give in to your own laziness or your pet’s begging.
Have you had a fat cat or portly pup? How did you get your pet to lose the weight, or are you still struggling to get them to a healthy weight?
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