Pet obesity is increasing in prominence, and though many people think that their pet may look cute with a little extra “fluff,” there are real health concerns for overweight. Overweight pets are more prone to ailments such as diabetes, hypertension, joint pain, labored breathing, more stress on their heart, more anesthetic risk, and others.
How much should my pet weigh?
After examining and weighing your pet, we can better advise you on what their ideal weight is and the proper feeding guidelines to achieve it. I prefer to monitor body condition score (BCS) and weight together. With an ideal BCS you are able to palpate the ribs, but not visibly see them outlined nor have to dig through an overlying fat layer to feel them. In addition, we aim to keep a peanut or hourglass shaped waist when you are standing over your pet and looking from the ribs to the hips.
How much should I feed my pet?
Measuring out your pet’s portions in an actual measuring cup is always advised. Many of our pets do not have a routine exercise regimen, so our tightest regulation on their weight comes in with diet and portion control. I also recommend splitting feeding into at least two meals per day. This helps to avoid increasing glucose levels all at once, helps avoid bloat that can occur by eating too much too fast, and is helpful if they are ever on twice-daily medication that needs to be given with a meal, such as antibiotics and insulin.
Many pet foods will have a feeding guideline on the back of the bag. In my professional experience, the food companies tend to be over generous with portion advice and many pets only need about 75 percent of the broad recommendations.
This is a starting point, but all pets are individuals and may need progressing adjustments based on their age, health requirements, activity level, metabolism level, etc. Also, the goal is to feed the portion advised for your pet’s ideal weight and NOT their actual weight if they are overweight.
You do not want to feed the amount listed for the weight they are now if your goal is weight loss. If your pet is overweight now and you are not measuring out how much you feed it, the first step is to accurately measure what you are offering. From there, try to cut back the overall portion offered daily by 25 percent. If after a couple of weeks more weight loss is desired, decrease another 25 percent and so on. In addition, look as if you are being overzealous with the treats!
Often times avoiding obesity is as simple as decreasing amounts fed and increasing exercise. Haven’t I heard that before? However, if that alone does not work, there are prescription diet foods we can try, and this is necessary for some pets. Contact us to discuss if a prescription diet is advised for your pet.
I would be lying if I told you weight loss was easy. We battle with that ourselves and know that it takes time and commitment. Nevertheless, the benefit here is that pets cannot eat whenever and whatever they want if we take responsibility and control it. For us to best advise you, bring your pets in and we can weigh them and tailor what diet and body condition score are ideal.
Dr. Christen Woodley, DVM, is a veterinarian at the Animal Hospital of Dunedin and graduated summa cum laude from Auburn University in 2005. She grew up always wanting to attend veterinary school like her grandfather.