Dogs and cats with a body condition of 6 (or greater on a scale of 1-9), or greater than 3 (on a scale of 1-5), might benefit from losing a little weight. Although it's often easier to say than to do, the simplest way to shed pounds is to take in fewer calories than are needed. The flip side is to increase the activity level of an animal high enough so that more calories are burned than the pet consumes each day. Before starting any weight loss program for a pet, owners should seek the advice of their veterinarian.
You'll want to make sure your pet has been examined and that there are no underlying problems before you and your veterinarian discuss the best weight management plan for your pet. In addition to a thorough physical examination, getting a complete diet history will be important. Knowing exactly what is being fed, who's doing the feeding, and how often will allow your veterinarian a clearer understanding of which recommendations will work best for you and your pet.
Here are some suggestions worth considering and talking about with your veterinarian:
- start by estimating how many calories your pet needs to maintain its current weight; a general equation for animals greater than 2 kg and less than 50 kg is [body weight in kg x 30] + 70 = (kilo)calories per day
- determine the caloric content of the food(s) you are feeding (or wish to feed); this can be done by looking on the package or contacting the manufacturer directly
- keep a food diary for at least 5 days and pay close attention to documenting every item of food that is offered, how much and when each item is fed
- use only an 8oz measuring cup to portion out dry kibble each day; 8oz measuring cups are the size used by pet food companies when reporting calories per cup
- consider feeding several small meals over the course of a day, rather than only once or twice; this may reduce an animal's desire to scavenge
- identify those snacks and treats that are high in calories and replace them with no-calorie or low-calorie treats, such as fruits, veggies and rice cakes
- treats and snacks should be portioned out in small amounts, no bigger than the size of your thumbnail
- all food, treats or snacks should be fed from a food bowl, not from your hand
- require your pet to perform a trick or complete an obedience command before offering a treat or snack; make your pet work for everything!
- consider placing the food bowl at the top or bottom of a staircase, so that you pet must climb stairs to reach its food (you get a little exercise this way too!)
- when exercising outdoors is not an option, have your dog do some doggy sit-ups before each meal or for a treat ("sit" and "lay down" repeated three times)
- Purchase a toy that can hold small pieces of kibble and use it as a means to provide exercise and some of the pet's daily calories.