We’ve all seen it. Fat cats. Fat dachshunds. Cute little bulldogs with their bellies dragging the ground. It makes our heart melt, it makes us want to squeeze them, and love them, and cuddle with them. I mean who doesn’t love a cute little pudgy pup??
Well, honestly, me. I mean, don’t get me wrong, when I see a cute little fat cat I want to rub their belly and I want to give the big dogs peanut butter and cheese and treats but I always feel a little upset. Because I can’t just see the fat dogs. I see joint issues. I see arthritis. I see diabetes. I see a shortened life span in a pet that is so, so loved by their parents.
A study done by Purina that included 48 dogs from 7 litters over 14 years showed that dogs that were fed 25% less and maintained an ideal or slightly less than ideal body condition score lived 2 years longer. They also showed less signs of aging, less joint issues, and were overall healthier than their counterparts.
So let’s break it down. What does this mean for us as pet owners? What does it mean for our dogs and cats?
What can we do to promote a healthier lifestyle in our animals?
Studies show that it can take 2 months for us to form a habit. That’s 8 weeks. 60 days. A long time for us to get in the groove of something new. But, hey, it’s January. What time of the year is better for change? Start small and do something manageable. Take your pet on an extra walk around the block daily. Add in dog-park time on the weekend. Play fetch or keep away in the yard a few times a week. Invest in a laser pointer for your cat. Make exercise fun! Not only will your pet get into better shape but it allows you some quality time to bond with your furry friend.
Another thing that can really help change the weight of your animal is food. A lot of us really get into a bad habit of throwing an unmeasured amount of food in a bowl and allowing our pet to munch on it all day. We have snacks so why shouldn’t they? Why shouldn’t they be allowed to eat throughout the day? Well, this adds on the pounds. We don’t know, truly, how much we are feeding them. And then we just get in the habit of keeping the bowl full. And then our dogs and cats visit it throughout the day and eat more than they should.
What can be done instead?
We always recommend measuring out the exact amount of food (come visit us and grab a measuring cup!) and leaving the bowl down for 15-30 minutes for them to eat and then taking it away. When starting timed feedings, it may take a few times of this exercise for your pet to figure it out, but trust me, they will pick up on it really quickly when you are taking their food away. Just try again a few hours later until they figure out you are going to pick up the bowl in a set amount of time. One or two missed meals while they are learning will not hurt them. It will help your pet get on a good schedule and encourage them to eat only when you want them to.
Another habit we need to break? Table food. What we might consider a small treat (a chicken nugget, half a burger, maybe a whole burger) can be the equivalent of your dog eating multiple of their regular meals. A lot of human food is very fatty and, beyond causing weight gain, it can cause other diseases like pancreatitis and hemorrhagic gastroenteritis. And, hey, my dogs are cute and it’s really hard to cut them off cold turkey but you can always cut back to just boiled chicken on occasion as a special treat.
So what does it all boil down to? It’s hard to make a lifestyle change. It’s hard to limit things that your pet enjoys and they are just so cute when they beg. But it’s so rewarding to provide your pet a healthy and active lifestyle and know that they will live a longer and more fulfilled life.
Have questions about healthy weight loss? Want to know the best food to feed or what you can do to help your pet exercise? Give us a call or message us on any of our social media platforms!
Lyndsie Elliot, Technician
Megan Burtnett, DVM