Now that many of us are working on eliminating any weight we may have gained since Halloween, we also need to take the necessary steps to help our dogs and cats from adding any unnecessary baggage around their cute little waistlines. Petmd.com offers these suggestions:
Consult a vet: “If you’re not having a conversation with your met about what you’re feeding your pet and how much you’re feeding him, you’re missing an important step to preventative health care,” says Dr. Ernie Ward, veterinarian and founder of the Association for Pet Obesity and Prevention. Your vet will also keep a running record of your pet’s weight so variations can be noted for future comparisons.
Exercise more: “There’s an entire nation of pet owners who are loving their pets to death with too many calories and not enough exercise,” says Dr. Joe Bartges, veterinary nutritionist and Small Clinical Sciences department head at the University of Tennessee. Ask your vet what kinds of physical activities would be best for your pet’s age and condition this winter. A jog or walk for 30 minutes a day, 3 or 4 times a week, is often sufficient for dogs. Cats, on the other hand, can exercise indoors by playing games such as chasing a toy mouse or feather for 15 – 20 minutes every day.
Adjust your pet’s diet accordingly: It is not okay for your pet to go on an “exercise hibernation” period during the winter like most of us do, particularly if his or her diet is not adjusted accordingly. “Less exercise means less calorie expenditure,” says Dr. Ken Tudor. “Continuing to feed the same amount of food will result in winter weight gain that is unhealthy.” If you are not sure about how many calories to eliminate from your pet’s diet, consult your veterinarian.
Use treats sparingly, if at all: Many vets suggest eliminating treats from your pet’s diet during the winter, especially f your pet is already overweight. If your vets think treats are okay, use them as an effective way to entice your pet to exercise and burn excess pounds. Even then, treats should be used sparingly and for only a short period until your pet learns to exercise without a food-based reward.
Make it a family goal: Make sure everyone at home is on board with the goal to keep your pet at a healthy weight this winter. That way everyone gets to participate in the exercise routine and games, but also knows to avoid sneaking treats/table scraps to Fido or Fluffy.