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Managing Your Pet’s Weight

Laura Preite - RVN A1

Managing your pet’s weight is incredibly important. We share advice on how to reduce your pet’s weight which can lead to a happy and healthy life.

It is a well-known fact that our pets are our best friends and when they come into our lives, they very quickly become part of the family.

We use treats as rewards when training, but we also give them treats “just because” – maybe when we have a treat, it only feels right to treat our pet too.

This can soon lead to overfeeding without you realising, resulting in an overweight pet. Being overweight can lead to many medical conditions such as diabetes, joint pain, arthritis etc.

Managing Your Pet’s Weight: Calorie Intake

Whether you feed your pet wet food or dry food, there is usually a feeding guide/chart that will tell you how much to feed over the course of the day. If your pet is “normal” in size (where you can see a waist and can feel the rib cage) then you should feed for the bodyweight they currently are for maintenance. If you have a pet that is underweight or overweight, you should feed for what weight they should be NOT the weight that they currently are. This is a very easy mistake to make.

Another thing that people don’t often consider are any “extras” that are being fed. If you are feeding anything extra on top of their daily food, then you will need to reduce the normal feed to account for these treats. What we deem as a small amount or a healthy snack may be carrying more calories than we realise!

For example, a 10kg dog that is moderately active requires around 600 calories of complete dog food per day. Chicken is seen as a “healthy treat” so is thought to be lower in calories. As can be seen below, if this dog was given half a chicken breast, that would mean that it has had nearly half of its daily calorie allowance even before having its normal dog food.

  • 1 chicken breast (250g) = 512 calories
  • Half a chicken breast (125g) = 256 calories

Another example: a 4kg active outdoor cat requires around 250 calories of complete cat food per day. If this cat was given half of a chicken breast (125g), it would already be over its daily calorie allowance.

As you can see, it is easy to go over the daily calorie allowance.

Weight Loss Aids

If your dog eats too quickly, you can try using slow feeder bowls, activity cubes or puzzle boards. This also creates stimulation and increases activity levels in some cases.

An exercise routine is important for managing your pet’s weight. For dogs, factor in daily walks and playtime. For cats, try and stimulate play when in the house. There are many games, activity sets and toys that can help increase your cat’s play/activity.

For initial weight loss monitoring, it is advisable to weigh every 2-3 weeks to check that the current feeding amounts, and activity levels are right for your pet. Our clinic nurses at all our practices hold free of charge weight consultations to help you and your pet in their weight loss journey and support you along the way.

Pet Weight Loss Tips

If you have a dog or cat that is overweight, here are a few tips to help stick to your daily calorie allowance:

  1. Establish your pet’s ideal weight to work out how much food should be fed
  2. Establish their activity levels – if it is an indoor cat or a dog that has reduced activity, the calories will need to be reduced. Some feeding guides will show the daily allowance for an active animal, very active and sedentary animal
  3. Avoid measuring cups and use digital scales to weigh food out instead. Measuring cups can give inaccurate measurements and can vary as much as 20%. For ease, get 7 sandwich bags, label them Monday to Sunday and then weigh each daily allowance for the week
  4. If you can’t cut treats out of your pet’s diet completely, switch to lower calorie alternatives, for example:
    1. Pedigree Milky Bone = 5 calories
    2. Royal Canin Educ Treat = <3 calories
    3. Fish4Dogs Sea Jerky Square = 8 calories
  5. When giving treats, remember to factor a reduction in the normal daily food to include the calories in these treats
  6. Consider changing to a specific weight loss diet to initiate the weight loss if you have a severely overweight cat/dog.

If you have any concerns about your pet’s weight please contact your local practice to book an appointment with a nurse.