Did you know that an estimated 60% of cats and 56% of dogs in the United States were overweight or obese in 2018? There are many diseases and conditions that come along with extra pounds, including diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, kidney disease, certain cancers, heart and respiratory disease, and decreased life expectancy. 

Since maintaining an ideal weight is a growing problem—pun intended—let’s make a pact for change. While you can’t give your pet a gym membership, you can resolve to help her reach and maintain a healthy weight. 

Start 2020 on the right paw and ensure your pet’s healthiest year yet with these five tips:

#1: Check out that body … score

Although people adore cuddling a chunky cat or porky pup, those extra pounds don’t mean there’s more to love. To help determine a pet’s ideal body weight, we use a body condition scale created by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA). The WSAVA has created visuals, for both cats and dogs, to help pet owners and veterinarians determine ideal body condition. According to the WSAVA scale, an ideal-weight pet should have an observable waist behind her ribs, and palpable ribs covered with minimal fat. Dogs should have an abdominal tuck when viewed from the side, while cats should have a minimal abdominal fat pad. We can help you determine your pet’s body condition score, and how she should look at her ideal weight. 

#2: Try a new activity with your pet

There’s no time like now to get the ball rolling on your pet’s exercise regimen. 

  • There are so many beautiful places in the Walla Walla valley! Explore the many dog-friendly areas to walk and hike.
  • Cats love feathers on a stick. This is a great way for you to interact closely with your cat and sneak in a little exercise.
  • Rolling a cat-friendly ball along the floor is a simple and easy way to encourage exercise. Running, chasing, and pouncing are all on the menu. 
  • Fetch can be a fun activity for dogs. For a feline who prefers to simply bat a ball around, try tossing a ping pong ball in your bathtub for your hunter to pounce on.
  • Interactive games are also a great way to get your pet up and moving. Training sessions, robotic toys, and treat puzzles with only a few treats are excellent ways to encourage activity. 

#3: Rethink treats

Sometimes it’s helpful to think of our pet’s treats in the equivalent of doughnuts for us.

  • 1 hot dog for your dog = 3 doughnuts for us
  • 2 slices of ham for your dog = 1 doughnut for us
  • 3 ounces of milk for your cat = 3 doughnuts for us
  • 2 ounces of sardines for your cat = 7 doughnuts for us

To reduce the number of calories consumed in treats, try offering treats that are cut in half—your pet will still love them! As an alternative to highly processed, store-bought treats, try offering baby carrots, green beans, celery, broccoli, cucumbers, sliced apples, bananas, or ice cubes. These naturally nutritious and tasty tidbits are a healthy option for many dogs. Be sure not to feed dogs a full apple or banana, as they have high sugar content. For cats, try a flake of salmon or tuna as a special treat. 

#4: Ditch the dish

Consider investing in or creating a variety of puzzle feeders that require your pet to work to free her meals, and ensure she burns calories and uses mental energy. If your home has multiple floors, place separate puzzle feeders on each level. Do not overfill the feeders—calculate your pet’s daily caloric needs and divide the food amount among her puzzle feeders. For help calculating your pet’s needs, give us a call. 

#5: Monitor progress

In general, your pet should be weighed at least every month until the ideal weight is achieved. You are welcome to swing by the clinic anytime and we’d be happy to get an updated weight and help you track your pet’s progress. Each pet is an individual and may require adjustments in the recommended diet or routine before finding the correct approach. If there is no significant weight loss in one month (3–5% of the starting body weight), the program will need to be modified. Sometimes, making only a slight change can deliver significant improvements.

As with any weight loss or exercise program, it’s best to consult your veterinarian before getting started. Give us a call—we’re always happy to help!