One resolution tops many people’s lists every New Year—shed those extra pounds. While local gyms and fitness centers reap the benefits of January memberships, pets could use their own fitness routine. With more than half our nation’s pets tipping the scales to the chunky side, why don’t you sign up your pet for her own weight-loss program? Chances are, she could use a little help to find her waistline again, and her sleek new figure could add years of comfort and happiness, while staving off a multitude of diseases. Are you ready to make 2020 your pet’s best year yet? Check out the following tips to help her reach her goal weight.

#1: Read the pet-food label

Does your pet start drooling at the crinkle of a treat bag? Before you open the bag, check the label, because many delicious, chewy treats are loaded with sugar and fat. As with human foods, sugar, corn syrup, and other sweeteners are often hidden. When browsing for a new, tasty pet treat, first closely read the ingredient label and automatically toss any bag that lists sweeteners and has a high fat content. Swap out sugary treats for whole foods, such as baby carrots, broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, and small bites of apples or bananas. 

#2: Hit the pavement with your pet

We know—it’s tough to venture outdoors in the winter and burn some calories. But, dog owners have a built-in exercise buddy who won’t let them down. A brisk walk or jog around the block, down a trail, or through a park offers a host of health benefits. Routine exercise boosts immune function, improves cardiovascular health, and reduces many behavioral problems. 

Cat owners may need to be more creative in encouraging their chubby kitties to get moving. Owners likely can’t simply snap on a leash and be greeted with enthusiasm for a walk, so play to your cat’s natural instincts instead. Cats are born hunters and enjoy exercising their predatory skills by stalking and pouncing on plush mice, feather wands, and fishing pole toys. A brief stalking session twice per day can boost your cat’s health. 

#3: Calculate calories in your pet’s food

Many pet owners believe the bag’s feeding guidelines are formulated for their pet, but those guidelines are designed for intact, active, adult cats and dogs, not the typical house pet who is often a spayed or neutered couch potato. If you follow the food instructions, you’re probably feeding 20% to 30% too much, which packs on the pounds and wastes your money on extra kibble. 

To calculate the calories your pet needs to maintain a healthy weight, follow this formula:

Your pet’s weight in pounds divided by 2.2, times 30, plus 70

Depending on your pet’s activity level and health status, adjustments may be needed. Call us, and we’ll help you calculate how many calories per day your pet should eat, how many calories should come from food, and what portion can come from treats. 

#4: Measure food correctly

No eyeballin’ allowed when measuring your pet’s food—perhaps the single biggest contributor to pet obesity is dumping food into a bowl rather than measuring accurately. Ditch the coffee cup, plastic container, or kid’s plastic shovel, and use a kitchen measuring cup. Once you’ve calculated how many calories your pet needs per day, measure the food, and divide it into daily meals. 

#5: Rule out your pet’s medical conditions

If your pet seems to have packed on the pounds suddenly with no change in diet or activity, schedule an appointment at our clinic. Many older dogs are affected by decreased metabolism caused by a low thyroid-hormone level. Bloated abdomens can be a sign of heart failure, while diabetes can make regulating your pet’s weight difficult. For pets who have fallen into the vicious cycle of decreased activity, followed by weight gain, osteoarthritis pain is often a culprit. Treatment is available for most medical conditions that lead to weight gain.

#6: Ask our veterinary team for help

Trying to lose weight without a support group is no fun. Ask us for help in creating a diet and exercise plan for your pet, stop in for routine weigh-ins, and tag us in your success story. We can recommend safe meal portioning, suggest a prescription diet food, and help develop an exercise plan for senior and geriatric pets to help shed those extra pounds. 

Is your furry friend more fat than fluff? Give us a call to schedule a nutritional consult to create a diet and exercise plan for your chonky pet.