While weight loss is simple in concept, use more calories in physical activity than are taken in, it can be a long and tedious journey often resulting in failure. Three categories that need to be addressed for optimal pet weight loss success include changing behaviors of the humans, changing behaviors of the pets, and lastly, the diet itself. You may feed your pet the most health-ful weight loss diet available, but without changing behaviors, pet weight loss will not be successful or rebounding weight gain will occur. Tips for successful pet weight loss plans include:
- Set realistic goals Understand your pet’s current body condition score (BCS), and set a goal to reduce their weight by 10% over 5 to 10 weeks. That results in a consistent weight loss of 1-2% per week. You will be able to see success without promoting excessive starvation.
- Weigh your pet weekly. This will allow you to adjust the amount fed down (or up if they are losing weight too quickly) and consistently reach your goals.
- Increase exercise, but don’t let exercise-driven hunger ruin your pet’s diet! For optimal health and well-being, pets need exercise just like people do! For dogs, start with short, slow walks. Pets need physical conditioning just as people do. Every week try to increase your distance by 15%. This may help build lean muscle which helps burn calories. It also helps protect stiff and painful joints. For cats, increase interactive play, especially in the evening. Cats are nocturnal. They prefer to eat and play at night, which could become annoying to the pet parent, so early evening entertainment may be a great compromise.
- Weigh your pet's meals. Weighing meals on a kitchen gram scale is more accurate than a measuring cup, especially for smaller pets with smaller meals. A few extra kibbles in a cup may be just enough calories to hinder pet weight loss.
- Feed multiple, smaller meals. Dividing your dog’s meals up into 2 to 3 meals daily will help them feel fuller (satiated) and prevent begging behaviors. Using hunt/capture toys to feed cats will help mimic their natural feeding patterns, which is where they normally expend most of their calories. Examples include hiding food inside a toy or toy trap that a cat must roll or pounce to release a kibble.
- Feed each pet separately. If you have more than one pet, you may need to separate your feeding areas. Multi-cat houses are very difficult. Try to feed the overweight cat separately from the other household cats. Separate rooms, electronic collar activated doors and ‘creeper feeding’ have all shown to improve weight-loss success in cats. Creeper feeding is where you make a small hole in a crate that only the small cats can enter. This will prevent the dieting cat from sneaking extra calories.
- Don't give your pet extra calories. Your pet's behaviors aren't the only ones that need changes. Some human behaviors that should be addressed are avoiding table scraps, and preventing pets from dining with humans (pets who are allowed in the kitchen when people eat are more likely to be overweight).
- Chose 1 person in the house to feed the pets. This may prevent 2 (or even 3) dinners.
- Keep a food diary.
- Remember, treats are OK in moderation! Just make sure you limit them to no more than 10% of the overall daily caloric intake. This will prevent your pet from consuming too many calories and will prevent the overall diet from becoming unbalanced. Here are some examples of healthy low calorie treats:
Dog Treats (small breed)
| ||LIT Brown Rice & Lamb|| ||5 kcal/treat|
| ||LIT Potato & Duck|| ||5 kcal/treat|
| ||LIT Sweet Potato & Fish|| ||5 kcal/treat|
| ||LIT Sweet Potato & Venison|| ||5 kcal/treat|
| ||LIT Sweet Potato & Bison|| ||5 kcal/treat|
| ||LIT Sweet Potato & Chicken|| ||6 kcal/treat|
| ||Healthy Bones|| ||7 kcal/treat|
| ||Tillman's Treats|| ||15 kcal/treat|
| ||Perfect Bites|| ||1 kcal/treat|