When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, we often step on the bathroom scale and vow to shave off a few pounds in the coming year. We know that we will have more energy and feel better if we control our diet and exercise to lose excess weight -- even during the winter months.
But did you ever consider making that same resolution for your trusty buddy -- your dog or cat -- as well?
Last year more than half of all dogs and cats in the United States were suffering from pet obesity, which can cause a number of health-related issues and shorten the lifespan of your pet, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. But the good news is that it’s not hard to help your dog or cat to get back into shape -- it just takes good information and a little determination.
Dogs and cats will take as many treats as you give them, in addition to generous quantities of regular food. That can be a particular problem when they aren’t getting their regular walks and outdoor exercise during winter, says LVT Stacey VandenBerg, who is also a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Assistant.
So a good weight control program Involves weighing the pets, then matching up the calories fed to them daily with the rough amount of calories that they burn off daily. The number of calories contained in a cup of food can be found on packaging or by utilizing the diet's website.
“And you have to figure in treats in addition to the regular food -- particularly for dogs,” she says. “Instead of giving them milk bones or beef treats, owners may want to go with baby carrots.” Other good foods that help satisfy the pet’s hunger without adding much to the calorie load include low-sodium green beans and rice cakes.
It’s a little tricker to determine the number of calories the pet burns each day, VandenBerg says. Some factors to take into account is the age of the pet, whether they are intact or neutered, and how much exercise they can get on a regular basis. Exercise for dogs is important, but tougher for older ones that may have some arthritis. One possibility or older dogs are regular workouts on an underwater treadmill that removes some of the pressure on arthritic joints, a treatment offered at Cascade Hospital. For active dogs without arthritis, the hospital’s indoor Doggie Daycare is a great way for them to burn off energy.
Weight control for cats is largely diet based, but owners can try to encourage indoor exercise with mouse toys and laser pointers. Cats should have a wellness checkup and bloodwork before engaging in a diet, VandenBerg suggests.
“We like to see an abdominal tuck and easily palpate the ribs,” she says.