Why is my pet overweight?
There are multiple reasons why a pet may be overweight. The genetics and breed of a dog or cat may predispose it to becoming overweight. Slow metabolism and certain medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism (low thyroid) in dogs cause pets to gain weight. If pets are very food-motivated, they may want to snack constantly. If there are children in the house, it can be difficult to keep extra food from being given to the pet.
The major cause of obesity that we see in general practice is overfeeding. It is very easy to overestimate the amount of food that our pets are being given every day.
How can I manage my pet’s diet?
We encourage everyone to use an actual measuring cup to measure out meals one to two times daily. If we are using any other container, or we allow our pets to free-feed throughout the day, the majority of pets will simply eat too much. Using the recommended amount on the bag of food you currently feed can give you a starting point, but in my experience, it still overestimates what your pet actually needs.
If pets are being fed treats in addition to their regular diet, we also need to take those calories into account, as they add to overall daily calorie intake and in many cases, add no nutritional value. We recommend severely limiting treats and/or switching to healthier alternatives such as baby carrots, frozen green beans, apples or ice cubes. If multiple people are giving the pet treats throughout the day, we suggest keeping a small bowl on the counter with a few treats in it. When those treats are gone, no more treats can be given that day. If giving people food during meals is a temptation, separate the pet from the people during this time. It may be difficult at first, but removing the temptation is oftentimes easier than saying no when they look at you with those sweet puppy dog eyes.
When training or giving rewards for good behavior, break treats in the smallest pieces possible. This way, they are still being given a treat from your hand but in a much smaller amount. Instead of food, consider giving cuddles, belly rubs and taking them on walks as rewards. This can work very well for pets who love attention.