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How to Manage Obesity in Cats and Dogs

Preventing and treating obesity among our cats and dogs is no different than how we also do it—healthy meals and exercise.

But how much do cats and dogs need to eat? What should go in their diet? How do you keep them active if you are away for the day?

Here, you’ll find the answers to these questions.

Food Quantity

Just like us humans, whether cats and dogs lose, maintain or gain weight depends on their calorie balance.

According to Pet Obesity Prevention an average 10 lbs cat that stays indoors needs 180-200 cal/day.

For dogs, the amount varies quite a bit because dog breeds also vary a lot in their size. So, a 10 lbs dog would do fine with 200-275 cal., while a 90 lbs. pooch will need between 1100-1350 cal to maintain a healthy weight.

The organization warns that the provided suggestions are for spayed/neutered cats and dogs, 1-7 years old and receiving less than 30 min of aerobic activity per day.

Unfortunately, PetMD says that vet scientists still know close to zero about how much calories cats use during exercise.

“We know a little more in dogs. One study suggests that a dog walking at a pace of 3.7 – 4 miles an hour (~15-minute miles) will burn .8 calories per pound per mile This means a 20-pound dog will only burn about 64 calories during a one hour walk.”

This makes it difficult to make an accurate estimation of how much food your furbaby needs, especially because guidelines on pet food packages are very basic and might not be relevant to your companion. The best way to make sure your pal is eating the right amount of calories is to contact a vet.

Food Quality

What food cats and dogs eat is as important as how much of it they consume.

Cats are obligate carnivores, which means that they need meat to thrive.

As for dogs, there’s still an unsettled debate on whether they are carnivores or omnivores, in other words—can they thrive on a meatless diet or do they, like cats, need meat?

However, ,more evidence is now pointing to dogs being carnivores, which is logical given that they descend from wolves. In essence, while dogs would eat non-meat foodstuffs in the wild, they also need meat.

Back to cats—not only do they need meat, but it needs to be whole meat that contains all essential amino acids.

Here’s the place to mention that contrary to popular belief “meat meal” and “byproducts” are fine ingredients provided they come from quality, identified, and trackable sources.

When it comes to food ingredients, you should look for high-quality proteins—meat, fish, and eggs. Avoid artificial colors, and flavors, trendy “superfoods” with little nutritional value, and “fillers”—corn, wheat, barley, and grains in general.

Note that treats also count as meals, and they can add up quite a bit to your pet’s calorie intake.

Treats are non-essential for cats and dogs’ diet and should make up no more than 10% of their calorie intake according to vets.

Activity

We already mentioned that researchers are perplexed as to how much calories cats and dogs expend with activity, but what is known for sure is that they need it.

Keeping your pets active comes with several essential benefits for both the animal and you.

First, it keeps their weight in check by allowing them to get rid of excess calories, especially if they are used to free-feeding which is a common cause of pet obesity.

Second, it keeps them mentally stimulated which enriches their lives and brings them closer to their natural lives.

Third, regular exercise lets cats and dogs burn off excess energy which means sounder sleep for them, and in turn—for you.

However, be mindful of your pets’ safety.

Cats are best kept indoors—“outdoor” cats live on average less than five years, while those that stay inside can live 18-20 years.

Indoor dogs also outlive their outdoor peers, though unlike cats, outdoor dogs are usually kept restrained or in a gated area, minimizing their contact with dangers such as traffic and aggressive animals. Of course, a dog can’t be kept strictly indoors as it needs walks and bathroom breaks.

As of cats—while some owners do take their felines for walks, it’s generally not advisable unless the cat is on a leash and playing in a safe and gated area such as a maintained house yard.

Busy Parents

How to stay responsible to your pet if you are living a busy life? That depends on how busy you are.

If you are only home for a couple of hours a day or travel a lot, then cats and dogs are not the right pets for you.

If you are busy during the typical 8-hour business day, then you can turn to the many tech and non-tech solutions that are available in the market.

They come with a variety of functions and cater for every budget—from modern, but expensive, mobile controlled toys and food dispensers with built-in cameras, to ordinary toy balls, and bones.

These days you can practically automate almost every aspect of pet care—from feeding time to cleaning litterboxes, however, this shouldn’t come at the expense of you spending quality time with your pet.

There is also a variety of options for the occasional traveller—from asking a trustworthy close one to look after your pet, to hiring a pet sitter, or booking your pal in a pet hotel.

All of this will ensure that your pet will be properly taken care of even when you are away.

Treatment

Unfortunately, pet obesity is on the rise, and what’s more worrisome is that few pet owners consider it a problem. So, what if it’s already too late and your cat or dog has passed the obesity mark?

The fact is that weight problems are as detrimental to your pet’s health as they are to people. Diabetes, arthritis, and organ failure are only some of the awful diseases that pets can develop due to weight that’s gone overboard.

Treatment of this condition should start with a vet who’ll determine the severity of the problem along with any possible complications. Then you’ll be advised on what to do.

If your pet is only slightly obese then a simple, gradual calorie restriction might do the trick. This, however, should happen under a vet’s supervision as the incorrect approach to restricting food can also lead to health issues.

Engaging your pet in some exercise will also likely be advised, while severe cases of pet obesity might require your pal to join a supervised weight-loss program.

In sum, keeping your pet’s weight in check isn’t hard to do, but it’s in your hands. Free-feeding and lack of exercise are the leading causes of pet obesity, and while convenient for cat and dog owners, these practices cost the animals dearly.

What’s more, the obesity-related illnesses that pets develop require treatment that can have a serious impact on your budget.

If you are having trouble maintaining your pet’s healthy weight, check in with a vet nutritionist so they can provide a personalized plan for your pal.

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