There’s no question that dog and cat obesity is on the rise. As more of our furry friends pack on the pounds it can be difficult to keep an accurate perspective. If you can’t feel your dog or cat’s ribs when you place a hand over them then it’s probably time to cut back on the calories. Consult a standard body condition chart to determine your pet’s state of leanness.
Unless there is an underlying medical problem, weight reduction is relatively simple: eat fewer calories and get more exercise.
When it comes to weight management the most puzzling problem is determining the caloric need for your dog or cat. Once you figure that how then it’s easy to portion the food. Here are formulas to help you determine the minimum caloric need of your dog or cat. This is just a starting point -- very active dogs have a greater caloric need.
Formulas vary a lot, as does the calorie content per cup, so we compared a few brands of dog and cat. What we found is that the caloric value of one cup of food can vary greatly between brands and even between lines of food within the same brand. Feeding guidelines also provide a wide range of calories for the same body weight.
You may think that feeding a reduced-calorie food will cause the excess pounds to melt away. However, these foods are primarily made from grain and cheap fillers -- corn, wheat, soybean hulls, pea fiber, bran, cellulose -- ingredients designed to only fill up the stomach. They provide no wholesome nutrition. Hulls, bran, and cellulose aren’t even digestible, and although some dietary fiber is needed, too much just increases poop production.
Many commercial weight management formulas may actually cause weight gain. These foods are typically grain-dense. And grains, especially corn, have a higher glycemic index (GI) than animal-based proteins, and may cause a sugar rush followed by a sugar crash that sends your pal back to the food bowl. Ground grains have an even higher glycemic index than whole grains, and grains have to be ground to be used in kibble.
There is a better way to successful weight-loss, and it starts with quality food. Since neither dogs nor cats have a nutritional need for carbohydrates, choose a high quality, meat-based food that is low in carbohydrates. Raw diets like Primal, Nature’s Logic, Stella & Chewy’s, Northwest Naturals, and Rad Cat are ideal. They are nutrient dense and naturally high in protein, with carbs coming from only fruits and veggies.
- Feed the amount for your pet’s ideal weight.
- Stop free-feeding. Dogs and cats, like people, will eat when bored.
- Gradually reduce the amount of food. An abrupt reduction will leave your chubby one begging for more.
- Divide the daily portions into 2 to 4 smaller meals each day. Use a smaller bowl so you don’t feed like you’re not dishing out enough food.
- Feed a nutrient dense food: a high quality meat and low carbohydrate formula.
- Read the food’s feeding guidelines to determine if you’ve been feeding the correct amount, if not, start by feeding less. Always measure the food. Unless the food comes with its own unique measuring cup, an 8-ounce measuring cup is the standard unit of measure.
- Use low calorie, smaller, and/or fewer training treats. Replace some of those training treats with praise.
- Don’t give in to meal-time begging. You can occupy your dog by serving his meal in a Kong. Prepare his Kong ahead of time and freeze it for a longer lasting meal.
- Instead of one long walk with your dog, take two 30-minute brisk walks each day. Be sure to keep a pace that is fun. Better yet, take your dog out to a safe open space and play fetch, or to the beach to run, swim, and play. That way he’ll get his heart rate up and burn off calories a bit faster.
In your enthusiasm to reduce weight, your dog or cat still needs fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals. You can supplement with a daily multivitamin like Animal Essentials Herbal Multi-Vitiamin and Minerals or Wholistic Canine/Feline Complete. Consult with your holistic/integrative vet on how to best maintain essential nutrients while reducing body weight.