Most common New Year’s resolutions focus on health. Did you know your pet can help you achieve those goals and benefit from the same attention to health and care?
Chances are, if you have a few extra pounds, your pet might, too. That’s because your habits and your pet’s lifestyle will often coincide. When you grab an extra snack in the afternoon, do you give your pet an extra treat? I know I have to struggle to resist giving too many treats to my pets – it’s easy to feel loved when your pet runs to you with joy, even if it’s because of the tasty morsel you have in your hand.
Veterinarians are reporting that as many as 40 percent of our nation’s pets are overweight. That matches pretty well with U.S. National Center for Health Statistics estimates that 30 percent of U.S. adults over age 20 are obese. And, as with humans, overweight pets are more likely to have problems such as diabetes, heart disease, joint pain, and even depression.
How can you tell if your pet is fat? You should be able to look at your pet from above and not see a bulge in the middle. Ribs should not be visible, but you should be able to feel them easily.
If you’re going to put your pet on an intense diet, you need to check with your veterinarian and rule out any underlying health issues that might be causing your pet to put on weight. Make the appointment at the same time you schedule a checkup for yourself (I bet you’ll be able to get into the vet faster!).
To deflect the attention from food treats for both of you, start grooming, snuggling or walking your pet instead of indulging in a snack. Get out of the habit of giving treats instead of taking your dog out – it’s common to give out of guilt when you’ve had a hard day and just can’t muster up energy to interact.
Start planning active time together with your pet and other family members, and work on changing your own habits to include a walk after work. You’ll both enjoy the time spent together and can avoid ingesting extra calories. Exercise also makes pets calmer and better behaved. After all, who has the energy to chew up the sofa cushion after a nice walk, an engaging time of chase the cat toy or an intense game of Frisbee?
Some human weight experts recommend several smaller meals each day rather than two or three larger ones. This can benefit your pets, too. Instead of one larger meal, try feeding twice or even three times each day. It’s best if you can feed at roughly the same times each day, so your pet gets into a habit.
Divide the same amount of food into two or three portions – it’s easy to fall into the trap of giving your pet more food for each meal, so you’re not really benefiting. Buy a scoop or measuring cup so you can be certain about portion sizes of pet food. Figure out what amount of food you should be giving each day, and don’t forget to factor in treats.
If you find out that you’re feeding too much, it’s important not to suddenly decrease the amount of food you’re offering, but to taper back gradually. Many animals are susceptible to fatty liver disease, officially known as hepatic lipidosis, which can come on in pets that lose too much weight too quickly. It can be fatal, so it’s important to take it slow and not cut back too dramatically.
You may wish to ask your veterinarian or pet food expert about a low-calorie or more nutritious food. Some “supermarket” foods have hard-to-digest or low-quality ingredients that make it harder for the animal to get optimum nutrition. It may be that a low-calorie pet food is not necessary, but you’ll discover that there are many options available. There are even low-calorie and low-fat pet treats that you can buy.
It also may be a good time to evaluate how well your pet food is meeting your animal’s needs. Is your pet getting older? More or less active? Suffering from itchy skin or diarrhea? It may be time to look for a different food. Because I’ve had good luck there, I recommend talking to the folks at Animal Crackers Pet Supply in Corvallis about what would be best for your pet.
Resolutions are, of course, only helpful if you can keep them. Humans are often recommended to have a “buddy” for weight loss and exercise goals. What better buddy can you have than your pet? Pets can be an endless supply of encouragement. Plus, you will often see results as they begin to lose weight and develop more energy that can make you more confident about your personal success. Embarking on the work of achieving a New Year’s resolution can be easier and more productive with your pet.