One of the many reasons people decide to adopt a pet is because they find an animal that is absolutely irresistible. And indeed, all manner of animals are designed to be cute and helpless from the get-go as a survival mechanism…you just can’t stop yourself from caring for them.
Unfortunately, when they look at you with those big doe-eyes, begging for a piece of bacon or a nibble of bread, you may find yourself drawn into meeting their every request, whether it’s good for them or not. Couple that with hours spent alone in the house while you’re at work, and the eventual weight gain that comes with age and a sedentary lifestyle, and you may wake up one day to the startling realization that you are the owner of an obese pet.
But what can you do about it? Here are just a few steps you can take to reduce your friend’s weight and keep him healthy and happy for life.
- See your vet. The first order of business is to meet with your veterinarian for a weigh-in. Once you know your pet’s weight, as well as the weight they’re shooting for, you can formulate a plan to get on track with a healthy lifestyle. Your vet should be able to offer useful information on how to help your pet lose weight in a way that is suitable for the species and breed (remember that older dogs need to cut down on fat while older cats need more fat in their diet, so that could make a difference in your overall plan).
- Go on a diet. Again, you should try to stick with the recommendations your vet makes, but probably the first order of business is to select a pet food that is for weight loss (or for senior pets, if yours falls into that category). Look for pet foods where the first ingredient listed is NOT corn. This is a filler that offers your pet no nutritional value. Instead, choose a food that has lean meat (chicken, turkey, or fish) listed first, followed by grains and even vegetables (corn should be way down on the list). This will ensure that your pet is not only satisfied, but also receiving the proper nutrients.
- Withhold “people food”. This is a biggie. Bags of pet food come with feeding instructions dependent upon weight and age. When you feed them people food, it is often in addition to their regular diet, and it is generally items they shouldn’t have (such as high-fat or processed foods). If you’re going to add anything to their plate, make sure it is something nutritious, like lean meat, whole grains, or vegetables, and then feed them less of their regular food to compensate.
- Include supplements. Often, animals that go on a diet aren’t receiving all the nutrients they need for proper bodily function, which could leave them lethargic or even ill. So talk to your vet about adding a daily vitamin supplement to keep them healthy.
- Institute play-time. One of the best ways to help your pet reach a healthy weight is with exercise. Not only will you give them the one-on-one time they crave by taking them for a walk, a jog, or a game of fetch at the dog park, you’ll also ensure that they’re getting the activity required to keep them fit and full of life.