Just like us, our pets usually put on a little weight during the winter, but a little winter weight is not usually the biggest problem in discussing obesity in our pets. We love our pets and we want them to know that we love them, so what do we do? We feed them – whatever we think they want. We can literally love them to death by doing this. I’m not saying don’t ever feed your pet table scraps – I do – but be very careful how much, how often, and what you are feeding them. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard, “Well my pet won’t eat his dog food anymore so I have to feed whatever we eat or he’ll starve.” Dogs aren’t born only wanting to eat human food; that is a learned behavior. You have taught your pet that if it holds out long enough on eating its dog food, then it will get the good stuff (which is really the bad stuff). The problem is that in humans, we have to take daily vitamins to ensure that we are keeping our bodies balanced on all the vitamins and minerals we need. We don’t get that in our diet because we get to choose what we eat. Our pets don’t have to do that. Their food is naturally formulated with all the essential nutrients they need in their lifetime. When we feed them people food, we disrupt their balanced diet and now not only are we subjecting them to obesity, another long list of medical diseases comes along with it.
Cats are a little bit different. Not many cats want what we’re eating. Occasionally they appreciate the fish you choose to share with them, but more often than not, they just want to be left alone to follow their normal routine. Where we get in trouble with cats is free choice feeding. What I mean by that is you put a scoop of cat food in the bowl and then just refill whenever they run out. And in mentioning a scoop, how much is a scoop? Is it a measuring cup? A solo cup? Or do you just dip the bowl in the food to fill it up? It is true that cats prefer free choice feeding (leaving it out all day) as opposed to meal feeding (which is preferred in dogs), but there’s a correct way and an incorrect way to do this. The incorrect way to do this is to just fill the bowl up whenever it is empty and to use a scoop of unknown amount. The correct way to do this is to measure out (however much the bag of food recommends that you’re feeding) usually about 1/4-1/3 cup of food per day. If you feed treats to your cat then use the low end of the feeding directions. If the bowl is empty before they next day, then so be it – do not refill until the next morning. If there is some food left over the next morning, do not just add to it. Measure out how much is left, and then only add to it enough to make up the amount for the days feeding. For example, if there is 1/8 cup left and you normally put 1/4 cup out per day, then only add another 1/8 cup to the bowl.
Now that I’ve gone into a lot of detail about feeding your pets, let me explain why it is so important to keep your pets at a healthy weight.
- Diabetes mellitus
- Heart disease
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Breathing problems
- Reproductive problems
- Non-allergic skin problems
- Decreased life expectancy
- Increases risk of cancer
- Fatigue/Exercise intolerance
Some of these problems are life-threatening and can be very serious. Please be aware of your pets feeding habits and contact your veterinarian if you have any questions. Let’s work on getting your pet’s beach body back!