Dunkin the French Bulldog loves a raw diet

Is it bad to have a fat dog or cat?

Obesity is a serious health issue that affects pets. It is estimated that 60% of cats and 56% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese. Being overweight can affect your pet’s energy level, their behaviors and their ability to experience a good quality of life. It can also cause diabetes, arthritis and can lead to other health issues, making it difficult for a pet to exercise and lose the excess weight. Pet obesity can reduce a dog or cat’s lifespan by two years. It is also something that pet parents can help treat and prevent. 

Is my pet overweight? 

The best way to determine if your pet is too fat is to consult a veterinarian who can assess your pet’s body condition to determine if they are overweight. A pet that is at a healthy weight should have ribs that can be felt rather than having a thick covering of fat over the ribs. A pet that is at an ideal weight should also have a visible tuck-up rather than the sagging waistline seen in dogs and cats that are overweight. Your veterinarian will also look at your pet’s activity level to see if their weight is affecting their quality of life. 

How do I help my pet lose weight?

Limit calories

Check your pet food package for the recommended daily feeding portion for your pet’s size, and use a measuring cup to ensure you are feeding the correct amount. Don’t free-feed your dog or cat, instead, break up your pet’s meal time and feed several smaller meals at the same time throughout the day. Since the recommended feeding guide is designed to maintain a pet’s weight, cut back on the amount you’re feeding your pet by 10%. Always check with your veterinarian before making significant changes to your pet’s diet. 

Cut the carbs

Low carb diets have been all the fad for humans lately but a low carb diet can also help your pet lose weight. Cut the carbs by eliminating table scraps from your pet’s diet. Ditch the kibble and highly processed treats, filled with grains and starches, and replace the carbs in your pet’s diet with healthy protein sources like fish, turkey or chicken. By reducing the amount of carbs they consume, your pet will feel fuller which will help them eat less and lose weight. 

Increase exercise 

Start by gradually increasing the amount of exercise your pet normally gets. If you walk your dog three times a day, move it up to four times a day. If you spend time playing with your cat once a day, increase your play time to twice per day. Try to spend at least an hour a day exercising your dog or cat and find new ways to keep it fun. If your cat isn’t interested in toys, try a laser pointer or install a catio so your cat can safely explore the outdoors. If your dog is bored with the extra walks, try playing some brain games. Just remember to limit the amount of treats you reward your pet with and stick with low calorie, zero carb treats like freeze-dried minnows for dogs and cats. Check with your veterinarian to determine the safest way to exercise your pet based on age and body condition. 

Go swimming 

Dogs that are very overweight or experience arthritis and other joint issues can benefit from exercising in water. When dogs swim they are nearly weightless in the water which provides support, pain relief and helps increase mobility. This zero-impact exercise not only burns calories, but it also helps improve circulation. Some veterinarians offer underwater treadmills for both dogs and cats to utilize for weight loss. Ask your vet for recommendations or find a local dog pool to exercise your pooch and check out these water safety tips to ensure your dog is safe during water-related activities.  

Take an obedience class 

Any type of increased activity will help your pet burn calories and a great way to start is to enroll your dog in an obedience or other canine sport class. Activities like agility, flyball, lure coursing and barn hunt are great ways to get your dog off the couch and involved in activities that will help your pet lose weight. Before beginning any canine sports, be sure to take your dog’s age and body condition into consideration as repetitive activities can cause wear and tear on your dog’s joints. 

Feed your pet a raw diet

Feeding your dog or cat an all natural protein-rich raw diet helps reduce the risk for obesity in cats and dogs by eliminating excess carbohydrates. To help your pet achieve their ideal weight, choose a pet food with quality protein and low fillers. A raw diet, such as Vital Essentials freeze-dried and frozen cat and dog food and treats, provides the ingredients your pet needs to thrive. Because Vital Essentials raw freeze-dried and frozen dog and cat products are made from meat, bones, and vital organs, they are higher in protein than traditional dry kibble. This will help your pet feel fuller with fewer calories. Even just adding raw food to your cat or dog’s kibble will increase the protein in their diet and reduce the amount of carbohydrates they’re eating.

Don’t give up on weight loss

Although it may make us feel good to let our pets eat as much as they want, and it may make us smile when we feed our pets table scraps and lots of processed kibble and treats, the health effects of obesity on dogs and cats are long lasting. The overall health and wellness of our best fur-iends begins with diet and exercise. The results of diet and exercise can take time to become apparent so it’s important that you be patient with your pet and don’t give up on helping them achieve their ideal weight. If your pet is having a difficult time losing weight, consult with a veterinarian or canine nutritionist to craft a diet with adequate nutrition. 

Helping your pet achieve the ideal weight may be a lifelong task, but the reward is a happy and healthy pet with a lifetime of love to share with you. For more ways to ensure your pet gets the very best care, check out our growing collection of blog posts. Enter your email into our mailing list to sign up to receive exclusive savings on Vital Essentials and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for updates and contests.