A Year-Round Resolution for A Healthy Pet Lifestyle
It’s a New Year and a new you! Time to try different things and make realistic changes and to do the same for your pets. No doubt that four-letter word – DIET – is going to up come! And, if Fluffy and Fido were over-indulged by both friends and family over the holiday season, the chances are that a dog diet or a feline slim-down is on your to do list to lead your fur family into a healthy pet lifestyle.
Make your 2020 pet diet pledge a year-round resolution namely a healthy pet lifestyle, NEVER measure and equate love with copious amounts of food for your pets!
We want our pets to live longer and happy lives and overfeeding negates these goals.
It may not sound a lot in human terms, but a cat can be considered overweight by weighing an additional two pounds according to her size and build, and, an additional five pounds can apply the same label to dogs. Any additional weight puts pets at increased risk for developing serious weight-related disorders such as arthritis and joint/walking issues, high blood pressure, kidney disease, diabetes and various cancers.
“Obesity is the number one health threat pets face, and the most important pet health decision owners make each day is what and how much they feed,” says Dr. Ernie Ward, Founder of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) (https://petobesityprevention.org). Currently, according to APOP, 60 peer cent of cats and 56 per cent of dogs in the United States are overweight, or, considered clinically obese.
Simply put, both dogs and cats need to count calories too!
The place to start a healthy pet lifestyle is by booking a veterinary wellness visit and making a discussion about diet and exercise goals a top priority. It’s not easy to put a pet on a diet. Definitely no crash dog diet or feline slim-down strategies! Discuss your pet’s ideal weight with your veterinarian and their medical team and, together, set small weight loss goals and re-evaluate every time a goal is met.
And, don’t celebrate these successes with treats. Instead, shop for a new toy or accessory. As with humans, the weight loss must be gradual and undertaken over six months to a year.
Depending on the individual pet, the dog or cat diet may not necessarily involve a special food. Your veterinarian may suggest reducing your pet’s current food intake by 10 per cent and, in this regard, some simple changes at the kitchen counter can go a long way in a weight reduction program.
The Kitchen Counter Quiz
Start with this easy Kitchen Counter Quiz.
- When you measure food:
- Do you do use a standard measuring cup?
- Grab the closest cup or mug of any shape or size in the cupboard?2. When you fill the cup with kibble:
- Do you ensure the food is level with the top?
- Do you heap it up as much as you can?
If you answered B to both questions without realizing it, you are over-feeding your pet!
Nathan A. Elam, Ph.D., a consulting nutritionist for Nutrition Service Associates and Inline Nutrition, who also advises Merrick Pet Care, offers these tips.
- Because kibble comes in different shapes and sizes, different recipes have different densities and thus weigh different amounts. Consequently, dry food is best measured gravimetrically using a standard kitchen scale that measures in grams. However, for convenience, kibble is usually measured volumetrically using a standard measuring cup that is the equivalent of 8 oz of fluid volume. When first feeding a particular kibble, in order to ensure you are feeding correctly, its best to determine how much a cup of the kibble weighs gravimetrically and, thereafter, work out the recommended calorie intake for your pet.
- Dry food recipes show the calorie content of a cup of food in Kcals. For example, a recipe that has 384 kcal/cup ME (metabolizable energy) means that one cup = 8 oz of that food = 364 calories. Pouches and cans show the kcal content in terms of the weight of the food in that can/pouch too.
- When measuring a cup of food, be sure it’s a level If you are heaping it to the max, you are overfeeding by that heaped amount! If you scoop of the heaped amount into a measuring cup, its each to see by how much you are overfeeding at each meal. And that really adds up.
- Treats have calories too! The calories contained per treat will be on the packaging. Treats should account for 10% or less of the total caloric daily intake. Never in addition to the daily food amount.
Reading Labels and Finding the Right Food
If you have done your homework with regard to recipes, and you are already feeding a well-balanced and nutritious diet, your veterinarian may suggest reducing intake by a proposed amount rather than changing the diet altogether. Never guess it for yourself. Under-feeding is as dangerous as over-feeding!
With regard to measured meals, the one benefit of signing up customized meals created for your pet and shipped to your home, is that a lot of questions are a pre-requisite for them to create the meals in the correct amounts. They are portioned to last a month and it’s a great way of feeding the right amount. If you run out in week three – then you are overfeeding…
However, if your pet is really overweight and possibly even clinically obese, there are science-based weight control diets manufactured by many leading pet food manufacturers and your veterinarian will make the best suggestions and help plan wet and dry meals for your pet’s ideal weight reduction program helping to reach a healthy pet lifestyle.
Controlling the Bowl
Measuring food and counting treats is only part of the changes to create a healthier lifestyle for pets. In a multi-pet household, it’s imperative to monitor meals to ensure that pets eat their designated amounts and don’t steal from one another. Typically, dogs will eat all the food in their bowl the moment its placed in front to them. It’s a matter of making sure that the one who finishes first doesn’t then move on to its friend’s bowl.
There are bowls designed to slow fast eaters down which can help https://outwardhound.com/slow-eating-stop-bloat-dog-bowls-and-feeders.html. Also, puzzle toys can be used as a way to feed kibble and change eating habits. https://nina-ottosson.outwardhound.com. Dogs by nature like to forage for food, and, puzzle toys can recreate this in a domestic setting. There are some designed for wet food too. This allows a dog to work for its meal and simultaneously benefit from both the mental and physical stimulation this action provides.
Cats are a different story because they are nibblers and prefer to eat mini-meals throughout the day. This is where technology can really help. By investing in food bowls like the Surefeed from Sure PetCare https://www.surepetcare.com/en-us/pet-feeder that operate on the designated pet’s microchip, it means that the bowl will only open for that designated pet. If an intruder approaches, it will close until they get the message and move on! Such bowls are also a good idea for any pet in the household that is on a weight loss formula or is on a special diet food that addresses a particular medical issues. There are also other bowls such as Wireless Whiskers AutoDiet Feeder https://www.wirelesswhiskers.com/ec/ that allow pet parents to measure meals and also control who steps up to the bowl. They can be programmed for a multi pet household – provided all the pets are eating the same food.
Exercise: Come On, Let’s Go!
Exercise is a key daily component for a healthy pet lifestyle in any dog or cat weight loss regimen. But here is the good news. This is something you can all do together and reap the benefits.
Dogs make great exercise buddies and there are lots of ways that together you can burn calories. The amount of exercise a dog needs has got nothing to do with its size; it’s breed characteristics will determine the amount of daily exercise needed to offer both mental as well as physical stimulation.
If your dog is a mutt, A DNA test will reveal its primary genetic make-up and offer insight into its needs with regard to physical activity. There are lots of fabulous action toys for games of fetch played both in the garden or in a dog park to work off calories and pent up energy.
Some dogs are happy with daily neighborhood walks several times a day ranging from 30 minutes to an hour. Others may require more active canine activities such as sheep herding classes or a variety of doggie sports.
Dialing Up the Fun
Dog agility is an off-leash activity that takes your dog around an obstacle course working against the clock. Dogs love it and become keen competitors when there are people cheering them on.
Flyball is a canine team sport that has competitors jumping over hurdles to a box that releases a tennis ball when the dog presses the spring-loaded pad. The dog has to catch the ball and take it back to its handler before the next dog in the team can set off in relay fashion.
Athletic dogs such as Border Collies and other working breeds excel at this type of sporting activity, but smaller breeds such as the Jack Russell Terrier, Pomeranians and Poodles enjoy such pastimes too.
For dogs that have a competitive drive and love to pull things, there are lots of activities such as skijoring, where the dog pulls his owner along on skis, as well as carting and weight pulling.
Rally Obedience, also known as Rally or Rally-O, is a course activity that puts the dog and its handler through various paces, making the dog perform various obedience commands at each station. The average course is between 12 and 22 stations.
Senior Dogs that aren’t able to run, jump and pull objects as they could do in their younger days often enjoy tracking, because it’s a very rewarding walking activity. If you’re not so fit, it’s a great exercise that gets you out into the fresh air too.
The popularity of television programs such as Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance! has brought renewed interest in canine freestyle dancing https://www.canine-freestyle.org with people signing up for dance classes to teach their dogs the Labrador Lambada, the Chihuahua Cha-cha or the Bulldog Bossa Nova. You may even make it onto a show such as America’s Got Talent…
Feline Fun and Games
When it comes to cats, games with lasers, wand toys and anything filled with catnip will entice play. Cats with a healthy pet lifestyle play for about ten minutes at a time and then the novelty wears off. So, it’s a great idea to introduce different games throughout the day. There are some electronic toys that work on a motion sensor and initiate games when Fluffy approaches.
Also move the food bowl a fair distance from a popular snooze zone. That way kitty will have to make a concerted effort and burn some calories when its meal time. Another great idea is to create a treasure hunt with toys and treats (part of the measure daily allowance) around the home. This will keep kitty on the prowl and honing her hunting skills. Cats enjoy puzzle toys too. The Catit Treat Puzzle https://www.catit.com/shop/treat-puzzle/ can be filled with food or treats from the daily allowance as well as small toys and catnip to make it a complete indoor amusement “arcade”.
Many pet stores now have special dog scales. So, it’s easy to monitor weight loss when you are out and about together. For small pets and cats, a baby scale is ideal to monitor those ounces as they add up to pounds and slowly decrease.
One final word, chubby pets on Instagram are not cute. They are uncomfortable in their own skins, have difficulty moving and breathing and totally relying on you to help so that you can truly appreciate their unconditional love.