BUT we all like giving our dogs their favourite treat
There are ways we can work treats into your pet’s diet. This often requires a consultation with your veterinarian to discuss your pet’s current food and treats and how we can change this to suit your pet’s lifestyle.
If your dog’s favourite treat is a full slice of toast, we are likely going to want to change that. Many dogs find vegetables are a suitable replacement – many dogs love carrots or peas, and these are great low calorie options. If you have a dog that loves to chew on dental chews or other chew toys, they may also enjoy chewing on broccoli stems. Be sure to always monitor your dog while chewing to be sure they aren’t trying to eat large pieces too quickly which could make them choke.
Your veterinarian may also recommend cutting down your dog’s regular amount of food. Sometimes this proves difficult when your dog is used to their heaping scoop of food twice a day. In these cases, you can try decreasing the total amount they get in a day, but feeding it in more meals. This way your dog may be getting less at breakfast, but now they have a surprise lunch meal that keeps them full until their smaller supper.
It’s time to start playing with their food
Many dogs lead sedentary lifestyles. This can lead them to eat more because they are bored. Using treat dispensing toys can be helpful in keeping your dog busy for longer, encouraging them to use their brain to work out how to get their food and tiring them out all with some time with a tricky treat ball or a kong wobbler.
Be sure to always monitor your pets with food dispensing toys, and make sure they aren’t chewing on them or tearing pieces that could be dangerous from the toys. Most food dispensing toys are very durable, but some dogs are very determined!
Fresh air is good for the whole family
Dogs love to go outside, sniff the pee mail, and stroll through their neighbourhood. Make an effort to get your dog out for a walk on a daily basis. Of course our Canadian weather can prove challenging, but by doing it daily you will make it part of your routine and will help your dog’s cardio with daily activity.
If your dog isn’t used to walking regularly, start with short walks and increase by 5 minutes weekly until you are at a 30-40 minute walk daily.
Many dogs develop arthritis which makes exercise a bit more difficult to get started, but just as important. Talk to your veterinarian about how we can help get your dog more comfortable and more active.
There are also many dogs with other health problems including food allergies or easily upset stomachs that make diets challenging. There are many diets available so talk to your veterinarian about an appropriate diet for your dog.
Let’s start the new year with a new routine and a healthier body for your dog!
It can be difficult to convince a cat to exercise, and just as difficult to regulate how much food they are allowed. Many cats have us trained to feed them what they want, when they want. It is also usually quite challenging to motivate an overweight cat.
Measuring out your cat’s daily food requirement is important and will help you monitor how much they are allowed to have in meals and snacks for that day. I often recommend measuring the total amount of food your cat is allowed for the day and putting it in a Ziploc bag or container. Then throughout the day, you can give meals and treats from this container. When the food is gone, you know they’ve reached their limit for the day.
Below are some ways you may need to approach changing your cat’s food and exercise regime to help with their weight loss.
Suggestions for the "Always Hungry" Cat
Some cats will bug their family for food all the time! They feel they need breakfast first thing in the morning, and snacks all day long. These are often cats that are looking for attention even more than they want food.
Try taking out a toy and playing with your cat. Using an interactive toy such as a wand toy with a feather or crinkle ball on the end for your cat to hunt and catch may satisfy their need for attention. Play for 5-10 minutes, then allow them to find a comfy spot to relax with a few of their kibbles from their allotted amount for the day.
For a cat that ignores the toy and really wants their food, make them work for it! Use food dispensing toys for them to push around the house that dispense kibble as they roll in the right direction. This will help increase your cat’s activity while they work for their food.
Many cats will enjoy working for their food, and another low cost option is giving your cat a treasure hunt with their meal. Take some of their kibble from their allotted daily portion and place it in various places throughout the house – some in their bed, some in their bowl, some on the different levels of their scratching post, etc. Only place a few kibbles in each location.
Cats that continue to feel hungry may need a diet that makes them feel more full. Talk to your veterinarian about a diet food for your cat to help satiate their hunger.
Suggestions for the cat that doesn’t eat that much
Many times we will see overweight cats that we are told don’t eat that much. They are often cats that are free fed, meaning food is available to them all the time.
In these cases we like to start by measuring how much food is going into the bowl on a daily basis. It may also be important to measure how much is left the next morning. A “bowl full” is often a lot more food than expected, so make sure to use a measuring cup. Assigning one person in the house to feeding may be important in ensuring that the bowl isn’t being refilled unknowingly.
Once we find out how much the cat is eating on a daily basis we can assess whether this amount is appropriate or needs to be scaled back.
Also take note of what the cat gets besides their dry kibble – Do they get a canned food meal throughout the day? Do they get treats on a daily basis? How many? All of these little snacks add to your cat’s daily calorie intake.
The next step for the cats who are free fed is encouraging them to be more active throughout the day. These cats are usually poorly motivated by food so food dispensing toys are not usually a good option. You can move their food bowl to different floors of your house throughout the day to encourage them to walk further and use the stairs to burn more calories.
Again, finding toys they like to play with and interactive toys may help in increasing their activity level. See the link at the end of this post for more ideas for encouraging your cat to be more active.
Suggestions for the multi-cat household
In houses where there are two or more cats there will often be one cat that eats more and weighs more than the other. There are a few ways in which we can prevent the larger cat from over eating or stealing the other cat’s food.
If the cats are of a significant size difference, feeding the smaller cat in a box with a door big enough only for the smaller cat to access the food can prevent the larger cat from entering and stealing more food. This can be particularly helpful in homes where the cats are free fed.
Meal feeding is another option where each cat is fed their own bowl of food. Some cats will be slower eaters than others, so separating the cats in separate rooms for their meals may once again help with a cat that steals the other cat’s food. If you are able to use separate rooms, you can also create a treasure hunt in each room for separate cats to encourage them to search to find their food.
Here are some additional ideas to encourage your cat to play and exercise: http://www.everydayhealth.com/pet-health/ten-cat-exercises.asp
Remember when trying to find toys your likes to play with that each cat has different preferences. Some love feather toys, while others love crinkle balls! Experiment with different types of toys to find what your cat enjoys.
The suggestions above are also useful to increase your cat’s mental stimulation and environmental enrichment, so you can apply these to cats that are of appropriate weight as well. If you continue to battle with your cat’s weight issues, make sure to talk to your veterinarian about the next steps which may include ruling out medical issues or starting on a prescription weight loss diet.
Most companion dogs and cats have a tendency to becoming overweight. While we are at school or work, our pets are often lazing around our home. It is easy for them to over-eat or be over-fed. Small cats and dogs require only a fraction of the calories humans require, so treats and extra snacks quickly add up.
Weight loss is best achieved through a combination of monitoring diet and food intake and increasing exercise and activity level.
What to feed and how much?
Since many pets are getting more calories than they require on a daily basis, we recommend starting their weight loss diet by removing the extras. This includes table scraps (breads, pastas, meats, leftovers). Vegetables are good treats and can be used as a low calorie filler for your dog – carrots, green beans, broccoli and cucumber are all good options for treats.
Starting a New Exercise RegimE
Exercise is a very important, but when our lives get busy sometimes it gets overlooked.
For pets that are not used to any activity, start slowly. This may mean a 5-10 minute walk twice daily. Brisk walks will increase their heart rate and metabolism better than a slow walk, but start with what your dog can handle. Increase the time you walk by 5 minutes every 1-2 weeks until you reach two to three 25-30 minute brisk walks per day.
Daily walks will always be more beneficial for your dog than one long strenuous walk once a week. More consistent walks more regularly are also less likely to cause your dog injury as they are more appropriately conditioned to their regular exercise.
Cats can be more difficult to exercise. We will be looking at ways to exercise your cat later this month.
Monitoring Your Pet’s Weight LosS