Maintaining your pet at a healthy weight is the best way to keep them healthy and strong. In school they always taught us that health is dependent on three things:
Environment – Nutrition – Genetics
Genetics is luck of the draw. There is nothing you can do about that, so why not focus a lot of time on a clean, engaging environment and good nutrition?
Chubby can be downright adorable, but it is worth the shorter life span and health risk? Love your pet and yourself enough to stand up for longer, healthier lives together. It’s time for both of you to get out and play!
Forget mirrors or scales to start and just think about yourself and your pet. Could the two of you sprint the length of your house if you had to? Could you Strut-Your-Mutt in the sun and not be sore after?
There are two things to focus on when getting to or maintaining a healthy weight:
Movement makes lubrication for your joints and makes you happier. Countless studies agree that being sedentary is hugely bad for a body. A body was made to move! Sitting around all the time frustrates the body into creating health and behavior issues. Moving is just as much a part of a healthy weight plan as portion sizes and it does amazing things for mental well being.
Good Food – Good Portions
If you are anything like me, you lead very busy lives and your pet is alone for a lot of the day. If you free feed your pet, they will spend most of that down time eating or napping, so it’s no surprise that we are seeing more and more overweight pets in our clinics.
To stop this trend, here are a few tips to keep your new pet going long and strong!
Tip #1 – Start Small
I’ve failed any number of exercise-diet plans because I tried to do too much too fast and eventually was overwhelmed and quit. Don’t be me. Make a good plan. Even a beer and pizza diet is still a diet, so don’t be afraid of this word. Just like our own waistlines, your pets waistline is mostly in your control. Use this from day one to set your pet up for success.
- Is your pet overweight? A surprising number of our clients don’t know how to tell if their pets are carrying extra weight around. PetMD has a weight calculator if you are curious. If you click on the pictures they give a description of the different weight classes. They even give you a rough daily calorie count for your pet. The AVMA has my favorite kind of chart since it shows cats and dogs from the side and above so you can learn to look for the important tuck of a fit waistline. If your pet starts loosing that tuck it’s time to exercise more and eat less.
- Find out what a portion size is for your pet. Most veterinarians recommend you look at the feeding guide on your pet food bag and feed just slightly less than that. Start there and monitor. This should be the main, if not only, source of calories for your pet. Pet store treats are high calorie and should be used very sparingly. Dogs can eat many of the veggies you can, like green beans, celery, pumpkin and cucumbers. Find your pooch’s favorite and use those as snacks in place of high calorie treats. But make all changes slowly. Cut down portions slowly. Slowly add love and encouragement instead of treats. Slowly work from the couch into moving. Slow and steady wins the race.
- Plan, plan, plan. A wish is an idea without a plan. Plans can, and should, change as needed to work best for you. If something just isn’t working, stop, research, get advice, rework your plan and try again.
- Dogs- go for a walk. Most every health concern can be helped by a good walk. Every few hours get your pet moving. Run stairs, do treadmills, whatever. It’s good for you too! Make it a good family habit.
- Cats- go play! It’s fun and good for you! Interactive toys can help minimize the stresses of long hours alone while you are at work. It can engage them mentally and physically. Play, with you and alone, increases their bond with you and the environment in which they play.
Tip #2 – Don’t compare yourself or your pet with anyone or any-pet else.
You and your pet are unique snowflakes and you are awesome. The only person you need to be better than is who you were yesterday. Your pet needs you just as much as you want them. Work together to keep strong. Everyone needs a workout buddy.
Tip #3 – Go to the doctor!
Every exercise routine will tell you the same thing. Make sure your body is okay to start anything different. It is also an awesome baseline from which to start your fitness journey. It’s also the super easy way to tell if your pet is overweight. Your veterinary staff will happily explain your pet’s weight status and even recommend a good food to help you put on or take off the pounds as needed. This relationship between your vet and pet on this is very important. We even love it when you come in for weight checks to just put your pet on the scale and see how they are doing. Every scale reads a bit different, so the more you use the same scale the more reliable the number will be.
This is one of our favorite visits from your pet since we just get to snuggle them. If you have a shy pet that’s afraid of the vet, this also helps to ease their fear of the office.
Tip #4 – Find something fun to do.
You are more likely to keep active if you are doing something fun. Your pet is no different. A sport or dance class can give you a schedule and a reason, think of the same for your pet. There are hundreds of couch to 5k apps for your phone. Leash up and try them out. Soon you and your pup will be doing 5k’s all the time without injuries or problems from doing too much too fast. If running is not your thing, try doggy yoga, disk dogs, agility, dock jumping, rally obedience or a rousing game of fetch. Cats also do agility courses. Whatever sounds fun. Go. Try it. Try all of them. More than once.
A healthy weight is very important. Don’t let unanswered questions hold your pet back from a healthy weight. Ask. Learn. Plan.
Help! My pet is overweight!
Help! My pet is underweight! (coming soon)
Help! I don’t understand nutrition at all! (coming in little portions)
Email me. I can help or redirect you to help.
Better yet just set up a vet appointment. That is the best was to get the individual care you deserve.