This month is pet obesity awareness, which is an extremely important topic!! Most people don’t know that their pet is overweight or the complications that it can cause in the long run. This is such a hard topic to discuss because we all know how much enjoyment we get from giving our pets treats and having them do cute tricks, and we don’t think of the extra calories our dogs are eating. According to the Association of Pet Obesity Prevention, in 2018, an estimated 60% of cat and 56% of dogs in the United States were overweight or obese, and most owners do not know that their pet is overweight. Obese patients are at an increased risk for arthritis, urinary tract disease, and cardiac disease and have reduced longevity.

This month is the perfect opportunity to learn about what’s a healthy weight for our companion animals and the steps we can take to get them to that weight. Here are some helpful tips to encourage weight loss in our companion animals

1. Talk to your vet!
Your veterinarians and staff here at Alpine Animal Hospital are your resource for getting your pet on track to lose weight in a safe and healthy way. Just like with people, we want to monitor our pet’s weight loss and gauge how their diet is working. We have a scale that can help monitor progress with monthly weigh-ins.

2. Track calories.
Understanding the energy intake your pet should have per day is the ideal way to make sure they are getting the appropriate amount of calories per day. Formulated weight loss diets work by adding more fiber to the diet to allow them to feel full all day without the added calories of their regular food. For the dogs that are easy keepers (easy to keep weight on), this food can be used as maintenance food for their life span to help them maintain that healthy weight.

3. Manage the treats.
We all do it. Who can resist giving their dogs oodles of treats every day? It’s an instinct as a pet owner. Ideally, 10% of the diet should come from treats. Great treat options that most people don’t know are things like cucumber, zucchini, carrots, and low-calorie foods that will still make your pets adore you. These simple substitutions are a great way to have enjoyment of treats and fewer calories.

4. Stay consistent!
Have an accurate measuring cup to feed your pet. When the pet food label says a cup, they are referring to an actual measuring cup. This may seem obvious, but many mugs, coffee cups, and other scooping cups may not be equal to a cup measure. Assign one family member to feed them, so they are not accidentally overfed, as well as be able to appropriately adjust for weight loss. Automatic feeders are a great way to schedule meals for your pet.

5. Incorporate enrichment toys and games!
Putting their meals or treats in toys helps them eat slower, and so eat less. Pinterest has thousands of ways to help entertain your cat or dog, and most of them are DIY with things around your house! My personal favorite for my dogs is scattering their dog food on a flat towel and rolling it up for them to root through for their dinner. Take a video when you try it, and share it on the Facebook page!

6. Get out and play!
At this point, we can all relate to needing some much-needed outdoor time. And as Coloradans, we don’t have to be told twice about staying active and getting outside. Don’t forget to keep our pets regularly exercised, whether a walk down the street or a hike, depending on your pets’ age and energy level.