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Should your pet be on a diet?

by Dr. Kelly Wolfenson Guay

Among other things, the holidays bring with them unwanted weight gain…you may have even made some New Year’s resolutions to help with yours… But what can you do for your pets? The first thing to do is consult with your veterinarian to figure out what your pet’s ideal weight is.  While you are waiting for your appointment, feel your pet’s ribcage.  Can you feel their ribs, but not see them?  Can you see a “waistline”?  This is typical of an ideal body condition.  If you can see ribs, and your pet is not a sighthound (greyhound, saluki, whippet, etc), it may be too thin.  If you have to press down through lots of mush (fat) to feel ribs, probably your pet could use to lose some weight.  

How do you help Fido or Fluffy lose unwanted pounds? Well, starvation is not the answer!  And you don’t have to feel guilty about all the treats, either.  First, control the amount of food and calories you are putting in the food bowl.  This way if grammy or the kids are over-treating your pet, you still have some control over the calorie count.  Most cats need ¾-1 cup of dry food per day, and experts recommend feeding a “mouse-sized” quantity several times a day until this total is reached, about ¼ per feeding.  Dogs usually require about a cup of food per 20 lbs, split into 2-3 feedings per day: this means a 40 lb dog gets 1 cup of food twice a day, 20 lbs, ½ cup twice a day, 80 lbs 2 cups twice a day.

Feed for an ideal body weight, not what your pet actually weighs.  Factoring in treats, 5 average “small” sized milk bones equals about a cup of food, so subtract the calories for treats when figuring out what should go in the food dish.  Keep in mind that your pet is not counting the number of kibbles in its dish, and that each treat you give adds to your positive relationship with your pet.  So you can still give treats, without guilt, as long as you subtract from the food bowl. 

Exercise?  But it’s too cold!  Play fetch or use a laser pointer to work out Fido or Fluffy, and help burn some of their extra calories.  Some people will use toys that dispense food as treats or hide/place food in the house so that the pet has to work to get at it, upstairs, on a counter, etc.

Stuck?  Try a lower calorie food, often labeled “less-active” or “low calorie,” feeding the same amounts as you were with the regular foods.  Another reason why pet weight loss can be unsuccessful is systemic or metabolic illnesses, such as diabetes, hypothyroidism, or Cushing’s Disease.  Your veterinarian can recommend testing or education opportunities to help you rule these diseases out.

Good luck to you, and perseverance will pay off!  You and your pet will live longer, and be happier and healthier for it!

Dr. Kelly Wolfenson Guay
Dr. Kelly’s House Calls  860-805-3726
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Dr. Kelly has been in private practice and higher education for 15 years.  She runs a house call business, Dr. Kelly’s House Calls, in Worcester County and would be delighted to see you and your pets in your home, where you and your pet are most comfortable and relaxed!  She will treat your pet as if it was her own! Find her on Facebook or call 860-805-3726