With summer rolling in fast, you’re probably spending a little time regretting those extra helpings of tasty winter food. While you’re probably amped to start working on your own bikini body, have you stopped to consider if your beloved pet needs to come along for the ride too? Today the weight watching team at Ou Kaapse Vet take a long, hard look at Mr Fuzzypants’ fluffy fat rolls, and why you really need to help them shed something other than their fur this summer.
We’ve already taken a good look at why it’s important to maintain a steady, healthy weight for your companion animals throughout their lifetime, and the many, many benefits you and they will see. What are you going to do if it’s already a little too late for their waistline, though? Does it really make that much of a difference when they look so cute pudgy?
To be frank, yes it does. Excess fat exacerbates the risk of disease, shortens their life, stressing their organs, and can make old age painful instead of play-filled as arthritis and sore joints keep them quieter then the puppy or kitten at their heart wants to be. So what can you do to help get them back into shape?
1. Get Active
We all know we shouldn’t be sitting with bums on the couch, and nor should your beloved furry friend. With puppies it’s easy- grab a leash and get walking! It will do you a world of good too. Be sure to build up slowly so their fitness can improve, especially as it gets hotter, but even a quick waddle to the end of the street and back is a great start. Kitties need to be kept active too, especially if they are indoor only- make sure there’s plenty of play toys [and encourage some bonding by using them together, too]. Consider adding some vertical space to encourage them to climb. Whether it’s a ‘cat tree’, a full custom catio, or simply some empty shelves for them to scramble up and down, this will help keep them active and interested. Being cats, a cardboard box can provide hours of calorie-burning interest, too.
Bonus: An active mind is one that will stay sharp even as they get older, so they’ll feel better and be with you longer.
2. Say no to snacks
While a well-used training treat is still perfectly fine- just opt for a ‘light’ variety that doesn’t pack in too many calories- it’s time to say a firm ‘no’ to people food. This one area alone can have a huge impact on kitty and puppy weight management, but only if the whole family plays fair. Don’t let someone play the ‘soft touch’ and keep sneaking them extra food ‘because ag shame’… your beloved furry friend doesn’t know what’s best for their health, just like a small child, and needs you to love them enough to do the right thing.
While saying ‘no’ to the wide eyes may seem hard or even ‘mean’, it’s the furthest thing from it. Overweight animals suffer in the heat, they feel uncomfortable all the time, and they hurt, plus they will die a lot earlier than their lean companions. Helping them slim down is the kindest thing you’ll ever do, so tough it out for their sake! You’ll soon be able to break them of the bad begging habit and substitute in something healthy and fun instead. It may not be so easy for the family, though. While we advocate for positive training methods only with your pets, feel free to swat your wife/hubby, your mom or the kids on the nose with a newspaper if they break the diet rules you set for Fido or Fluffy. It’s important!
3. Feed the right food
Of course, slimming down doesn’t mean they can skimp on good nutrition. It becomes more important than ever that they get all their vitamins and minerals, and can feel fuller on less, just like when we diet. Opt for a good, trusted brand of ‘light’ or ‘weight loss’ food, and learn to read ingredient labels and pick the very best quality you can for your pet. Don’t worry, there are trusted, well-formulated budget brands too if cash is tight, so your pet can always be cared for. Make sure all ingredients support a healthy body and active mind, and avoid unnecessary fillers [in budget foods] and gimmicks [in some luxury brands] that cost your pocket and their health.
Remember that your cat or dog isn’t a human, and resist the marketing-led urge to pack them full of things we’re told we need, things that match your diet, or ‘superfoods’ and other exotic items that may be unsafe. Rather chat with your vet about their most important dietary needs, feeding methods you would prefer, and any other nutrition questions you have.
4. Feed according to the plan
Portion sizes, especially for dry food, can seem very low when you’re used to packing your own plate. That’s likely how Fido and Mr Whiskers got a little tubby in the first place! Remember, there’s no waste and fuss in a high-quality pet food, so they don’t need too much of it to get all the goodness they need. Stick to the recommended amount for your pets target weight, and watch the kilos slide off.
5. Get your vet’s support
It’s possible your vet was the first person to mention the weight issue, but if not, don’t be afraid to approach your vet team to discuss any concerns you may have about your animal. They’re always there to listen and help! They can advise on a safe target weight for your pet, do a precautionary health and wellness test, monitor the weight loss process, help you set up a slow and steady plan for weight loss without stressing your animal, help you work around or manage health conditions, tweak meds as your pet gets healthier, and much more. Family don’t always support your pet parenting style, especially in a sensitive arena like weight loss, but with your vet on board you’ll have all the knowledge you need.
Ou Kaapse Vet loves nothing more than seeing healthy, happy pet-owning families, so please reach out to us if you need help managing your pet’s weight [or anything else].