It’s something almost every pet parent has heard; your pet is overweight and they need to lose weight. Just like in humans, obesity has become a growing problem in pet healthcare. It’s important to both prevent excessive weight gain before you pet becomes overweight and to lose weight if your pet is currently overweight. There are many common reasons why your pet is overweight. In most cases it’s a combination of eating too much and moving too little.

The first step in helping your pet lose weight is to address the issue with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian might recommend blood tests to rule out any medical conditions such a thyroid issues. If the tests come back clear of medical maladies, your veterinarian will develop a weight loss program for your pet with recommended food and exercise. Just as in human weight loss plans, success usually requires a complete and well executed plan.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: when it comes to exercise it’s very important to start slowly. A one to two mile walk a day can make a huge difference in your dog’s health. If you don’t have time for that, going to daycamp even only a few times a week can make huge differences because your dog will spend all day with playing with other dogs. It’s important to make excercise part of your dog’s routine, it’s very hard for them to lose weight without it.

As for cats, especially indoor cats, obesity is a huge problem. With cats, preventing weight gain is a lot easier than promoting weight loss. Prevention is most easily done by keeping them active through regular play. If your cat is responding to traditional toys, you may find success with a laser pointer. In addition, keep close watch of your cat’s diet. When in doubt, talk to your veterinarian about correct portion sizes.

Diet is often the easiest factor to manipulate on the path to weight loss. Begin by eliminating table scraps from your pet’s diet. Pets’ daily recommended caloric intake can often be as low as 400-500 calories, even a small amount of human food can exceed 400 calories.

Another common problem is leaving food accessible all day. Just like their two legged counterparts, a bored pet will graze all day when given the option. To stop this behavior, you should transition your pet to meal feeding. Once or twice a day, you give your pet as much food as is recommended by your vet. If your pet doesn’t finish their food in a certain amount of time, it goes away. It may take a few days, but eventually your pet will understand when it’s time to eat and when it isn’t. Also be cautious as often the amount of food recommended by the pet food company is greater than what your pet really needs. Pet food companies also have no legal requirements to give a calorie count for their food products. As a result, the amount of calories offered in the “light” food of one brand may exceed the calories in a “regular” food of another brand. Be sure to compare them all and talk to your vet about recommended brands!

In order to figure out how much food you should be giving your pet, figure out what the normal activity level and calorie needs are for your pet. Your veterinarian can calculate this for you. Then, by looking online or researching your pet food brand, you can calculate how many calories there are per cup and how much food you should be feeding your pet a day. Calorie calculating is a good way to start but will need to be individualized based on your pet’s metabolism.

It’s very important to control your pet’s weight and prevent obesity. A combination of diet and exercise is the best way to do this. The best way to start is with a good plan!