Many dogs and cats (and their owners!) get into a routine for a treat at a specific time of day – sometimes a mid-morning or late-night snack! It can be hard to break this routine and completely cut out the snack. Instead of cutting out the snack, here are a few tips on making the snack healthier:
1. Use vegetables as low calorie snacks. There are many healthy vegetables that your dog will find a tasty treat! Many people are surprised when their dog loves cucumber. You can also try beans, broccoli, and carrots too. For a dog who likes a good chew, a broccoli stem is often a good replacement.
2. Give a lesser amount of the snack they get. Sometimes the entire treat may be too many calories, so try breaking it into smaller pieces and feeding a smaller total quantity. Instead of 2 large biscuits, they may get ½ of a biscuit broken into 4 pieces.
3. Save a small portion of your pet’s daily portion of kibble for a snack at another time in the day. If your pet normally gets 1 cup total of kibble per day split into 2 meals of ½ cup each, you may try splitting this into 3 meals of 1/3 cup. Your pet will be just as excited for their third portion of kibble at snack time. Some dogs, and even some cats, may prefer that this snack be interactive – use it to do a bit of obedience training, or hide and seek for their snacks. This is an added source of mental stimulation and environmental enrichment for your pet when you are busy.
Other snack options:
You can also use fruits as snacks or training treats. Blueberries, slices of apple, and melon all make good treats. You can even mix small chunks of fruit with water and freeze them for a refreshing ice cube snack in the summer.
Snacks to avoid:
Avoid high fat foods, especially fatty pieces of meat. These can make dogs and cats very sick.
Avoid onions and grapes - these can both cause toxicities.
Avoid large quantities of carbs – bread, donuts, spaghetti. These higher calorie snacks are of no added nutritional value for your pet and they will push them over the amount of calories they require in a day.
Ask your vet for more recommendations for your pet if they have a special diet or medical condition.
More and more dogs and cat are rated as overweight or obese by their veterinarians. These animals are being put at risk of developing serious diseases earlier in life, and they are also more likely to have a shortened life span.
Carrying extra weight can predispose your pet to early arthritic changes. The more weight they carry, the more pressure is applied to their joints. Arthritis can start earlier, and as they become more painful, they have less ability to exercise. This becomes a vicious cycle of inactivity leading to weight gain leading to further mobility concerns and weight gain. Some of these obese dogs and cats are euthanized early for an inability to get around, an inability to get in the car, or the inability to keep themselves clean.
Ligament tears are also more common in obese dogs – these are usually seen as an acute lameness. These tears can be surgically repaired, but once again, obesity will make recovery more difficult.
Obese cats that decide not to eat are more at risk of developing hepatic lipidosis or fatty liver. By not eating (for any reason – stress, other illness, or because they are unhappy with what you are offering) they develop hepatic lipidosis that makes them feel ill and less likely to eat. These cats get sick faster and need intensive care to start eating again.
Obese dogs and cats are at a higher risk of developing diabetes. Just like people, animals can get diabetes. And just like people, diabetic cats and dogs may require twice daily insulin injections, special diabetic food, and regular blood glucose monitoring. Not only can this be stressful on the pet, as well as their caretaker, but it can also be expensive.
Animals that are overweight or obese may also have a more difficult time breathing and may develop exercise and heat intolerance. This can make weight loss difficult for these animals.
What diseases are obese pets predisposed to?
Is my PET fat?
Your pet’s body condition score is evaluated regularly at their annual exam. Here is a scale that is commonly used. An easy way to monitor your pet is to make sure that from above they have a slight indent at their abdomen, behind their rib cage, and from the side they should have a tuck up at their abdomen.
If your dog or cat’s body shape has become boxy or overly rounded, they are in need of a diet and exercise plan!
What do I do to help my pet lose weight?
If you acknowledge that your pet is in need of weight loss, that is the first step to making a change!
Next step is to determine where the unhealthy habits lie – it is either lack of exercise or over indulgence of food and treats.
It is important that your pet doesn’t lose weight too quickly! We want slow, steady, but consistent weight loss. Please contact your veterinarian to help develop a plan for safe weight loss for your pet.
We will have further tips later this month on healthy snacks.
Having difficulty achieving weight loss for your pet?
Some pets will need special diet food to help achieve weight loss success! These diets have a number of ways that they are effective in weight loss. They often help your pet to feel full, this means they won’t eat as much. They may have fewer calories per cup so they can eat more but not be taking in as many calories. If your pet needs a diet food, ask your veterinarian for assistance choosing the right one.