By Dr. Susanne Krägeloh
It seems that time is flying, and New Years resolutions were made and sometimes already forgotten. One of the most popular resolutions is weight loss and paying attention to better health.
Apparently, we are more successful with New Years resolutions if we have a friend we can strive for success with. So why not make our pet this friend? Maintaining a good weight (or achieving weight loss) and striving for healthy lifestyle will benefit our best friends as well.
But how do we address weight loss in a pet? It is not that different from us. The key is often in how much is consumed. But how much is too much? So, the first thing to do would be to look at how much food your pet consumes in one day. How much food is offered, and how much food is consumed? Are there any treats given or food items outside mealtimes? Anything offered besides regular meals will increase the calorie count per day, and often treats are more calorie dense than we think they are. Also, our pets are in most cases much smaller than us, and a small treat for our small dog could be for us as much as a full chocolate bar or an extra cheeseburger.
Then we need to calculate how much should be fed. Here again, we often miscalculate how much we need to feed. All pet foods come with some instructions how much to feed. But often this is quite generous since no manufacturer wants animals to starve while being fed their product. Also, these are guidelines only. If your pet is already overweight, we need to feed for less than their actual weight. The rule of thumb is to look at the ideal weight (or a target weight) and feed for 2/3 of that. But please do not decrease the amount fed suddenly significantly! Slowly reduce the amount until we are at the amount we want to feed.
The next step is exercise. Typically, physical activity does have an indirect influence on weight management by kick-starting metabolism and to help maintain, sometimes even increase, muscle mass. Here again we want to start slow and steady and continue raising our bar. Please do not take your pet on a 3-hour hike after a 3 month down period! This can cause discomfort or worse, injury. It is much better to set achievable goals and proceed from there!
As always, when in doubt, ask us for advice if needed. There are multiple options available when it comes to weight management foods (for our pets), and we can also weigh your pet regularly to keep track of success!