Are You Over-Feeding Your Pet?

Is your furry friend looking a little extra, ahem, shall we say “fluffy”? Our pets can’t take themselves to the gym or count calories if they put on a few extra pounds – it’ up to us to make sure they are staying fit and healthy! We’re not body-shaming here – pet obesity is a serious concern. Excess weight can put extra pressure on your pet’s joints and organs, and lead to heart disease and cancer. Keep your pet at a healthy weight by following these tips:

  1. Measure out that food! Don’t just fill up the bowl to the top – there is a chart on your pet’s food bag that will have the amount of food they should eat relative to their weight. If your pet exercises significantly less or more than average, adjust their portions accordingly. Be sure to communicate with members of your household to ensure your pet doesn’t try to trick you into giving them a second breakfast!
  2. Feed your pet on a schedule. Cats can be very fussy when their food bowls aren’t constantly filled to the top but feeding them at specific times each day can help them maintain a healthy weight. It can be a bit of a challenge the first week you transition your cat to eating at the same time every day, but they will adapt to the sight of a (gasp!) empty food bowl. Consider using food puzzles for both dogs and cats to make dinner time a fun (and calorie-burning) activity!
  3. Skip the table scraps. Most human foods are not safe for pets to eat. For special occasions, you can give your pet some plain, boiled or baked boneless chicken and cooked and steamed plain veggies like carrots, green beans or broccoli in small amounts. Key word – small amounts! Any big changes in your pet’s diet can result in tummy trouble, which can mean anything from stinky gas to diarrhea. If you feed your pet any human food that is spiced, fatty, contains bones, sugar, yeast or alcohol, that can lead to serious gastrointestinal issues and even a trip to the veterinarian. For a better idea of which foods are safe to share with your pet, check out this article on pet-safe foods from the ASPCA.
  4. Don’t let the treats get out of control. Treats should be just that – special treats to reward your pet for good behavior. You can give out extra treats when you’re teaching your pet a new skill, such as going into their crate at bedtime or learning sit. It’s best to break treats up into small pieces that can be eaten in one bite and save bigger treats for special occasions. It’s okay to buy your pet a Gotcha Day cake from the doggy bakery once a year, but overloading your pet with too many treats on a daily basis will not only cause them to gain weight, but can reduce their interest in earning a treat from you when you want them to learn something or behave appropriately.
  5. Play, play, play! Not every dog is into long walks and a lot of cats will take one look at that exercise wheel and curl up for a nap on it. If your pet loves exercise, great! If not, you can stimulate their minds and help them stay fit with a bit of play. Take a minimum 10 minutes every day to play with your pets – double that for pets under 5 and triple it for puppies and kittens!

Overfeeding your pet can be dangerous, but you can start getting your pet on track right now. Measure that food, limit those treats, avoid table scraps, and make sure your pet gets plenty of exercise.

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