Helping your pet maintain a healthy weight improves their quality of life and reduces the risk of weight-related health issues. To help you keep your furry buddy on track, we have prepared this guide on weight, activity, and nutrition - the essentials for health and overall well-being. But first, let’s answer the question, what’s a healthy weight for my pet?
Determining a healthy weight for your pet
Our furry buddies are unique. There are differences in species, breed, age, gender, activity levels, health, and living conditions. Therefore, there is no single “healthy weight” that cuts across. The best way to determine a healthy weight for your pet is to have an honest chat with a vet. The vet can assess your pet’s weight, consider the unique circumstances, and give an objective verdict.
Also, a healthy weight is not just a number on the scale. It is about the body condition of your pet. The vet can also help you learn to use a body condition score chart, like this one by the American Animal Hospital Association, to assess your pet’s weight. Once you have determined a healthy weight for your pet, use the following guidelines to help them maintain it.
Feed your pet a nutritious and balanced diet
Give your pet a nutritious and balanced diet as recommended by the vet. Typically, it would contain proteins, vitamins, carbs, minerals, fiber, and water. However, the proportions of each component will vary depending on the species, age, and many other factors. For example, the composition of a nutritious diet for an adult cat is different from a dog’s. Cats are obligate carnivores, but dogs are considered omnivores.
The diet for cats should consist mainly of animal protein and zero grains. On the other hand, a dog’s diet could contain some plant-based components but it should also consist of a significant quantity of meat and meat products to mimic their ancestors - the wolves.
Why are products such as lamb, fish, and chicken crucial for your dog or cat?
Due to their short gastrointestinal systems, our canine and feline companions cannot synthesize certain amino acids. These amino acids are crucial, and your pet will need to ingest them. If they don’t, they could develop health issues.
Meat and meat products are readily available and provide all the amino acids required by your cat or dog. Although a meat-only diet could be harmful to dogs, they still need high meat content to thrive. The benefits of feeding your dog a meat diet has been asserted by respected DVMs like Dr. T J Junn and many dog owners. Besides, research shows that just as it is in humans, a high protein diet can be beneficial in weight management for obese cats and dogs.
If meat and meat products are wholesome, why do some pet foods contain high-level plant-based foods?
In the book, Canine and Feline Nutrition: A Resource for Companion Animal Professionals (Case, Carey, and Hirakawa), the authors imply that plant-based components in pet foods are a “protein sparing” strategy. It implies that plant-based components in pet foods serve economic goals - to cut down on the more expensive protein (a human concept).
Discuss with your vet how meat and meat products can help your pet maintain a healthy weight.
Practice portion control
Now that you know what to feed your pet, the next question is how much to feed them?
Ensure you divide each portion according to the vet-recommended measure which should be sufficient for their nutritional needs. Remember that both dogs and cats still have the survival instinct and would not hesitate to gorge themselves if given the chance. Therefore, do not leave food out. They will just keep eating it and in no time your pet will have a weight problem.
Diet and portion control are crucial, and it is vital to stick to the vet-recommended regimen. However, they should not be static and should adjust with the season.
The diet and portions fed to a kitten or puppy will change as they grow into adolescence and adulthood. In the same way, season changes could affect your pet’s activity levels and thus you should amend the diet and portions accordingly.
Skip the table scraps and limit the treats
One of the worst things you could do for your pet’s weight is giving them table scraps regularly or undeserved treats. To keep your pet at a healthy weight, you must learn not to give in to those begging eyes and calls.
Some human foods like chocolate are dangerous to both cats and dogs. But apart from this, human foods are often high-calorie and thus, could be more appealing to your pet. Your pet could develop a liking for the human foods and turn its nose on their bowl. Eventually, the pet will grow overweight and could develop weight-related conditions.
On the other hand, treats are important for training and behavior management. But as it is, many treats on the market are calorie-rich and would create weight issues if a pet feeds on too many.
Remember, give your pet a treat when they truly deserve it. That is, when they have worked for it, achieved a goal, and waited patiently for the treat. If you have a pet that is eager to please, remember experts recommend that treats should not exceed 10% of the daily energy requirements.
Engage in fun activities and exercise
Staying active is crucial for keeping your pet at a healthy weight. Whether it is taking walks around the neighborhood or creating an obstacle course indoors, ensure you engage your pet in some exercise and fun activities every day.
These help to burn calories and maintain a healthy weight. But more than that, they boost the immune system and alertness and optimize organ functioning. Exercise boosts the well-being of your pet. Fun activities like playing with enrichment toys help improve the mental aspect and your bond with your pet.
Keeping your pet at a healthy weight - the bottom line
Keeping your pet at a healthy weight will improve the quality of your pet’s life but also deepens your bond. Remember, a good vet is your greatest ally, and a healthy diet is your best tool. Talk to a vet about changes you would like to make to their diet and activities.