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How to manage your cat or dog’s weight through diet and exercise

Eve Bestwick

It is important to visit your veterinarian if you feel your pet is not an ideal weight as they will provide you with individual guidance and information for your pet. However, and especially during the current Coronavirus lockdown measures, there are some things that you can do to both manage and maintain your pet’s weight.

Altering your pet’s diet is usually the first step that is recommended if they need to lose weight, often called “putting your dog or cat on a diet”. This is heavily dependent on a variety of factors including what you currently feed your pet, their breed, and their workload/level of activity.

Ideally, you should consult a veterinary professional before altering your pet’s diet. You can email us for advice here: [email protected]


There are a number of ways you can cut calories from your pet’s diet and help them reach a more healthy weight, these include:

  • Reduce portion size gradually, and take guidance from the food packet’s information.
  • Measure your pet’s daily food amount to avoid giving your pet too much or too little.
  • Give each pet their own food bowl to avoid one pet getting more than their designated amount
  • Cut out harmful and fattening human foods such as toast, biscuits, sausages, bacon & cheese.
  • Introduce healthy treats e.g. some fruits, salad items, vegetables, tuna, and freshly cooked meats – always research any foods you are unsure of first in case they’re toxic for pets and introduce new foods slowly, one at a time and in small measures, to avoid upsetting your pet’s tummy.
  • Use healthy treats wisely e.g. during exercise, training, and as a reward.
  • Try making your own healthy treats, like these homemade dog treats, which can be made in batches and can save on calories and money.
  • Change to a vet-recommended low-calorie food if your pet is excessively overweight or obese – this should always be discussed with a vet first.

Find out more in our article: Seven ways to cut calories from your pet’s diet


IMPORTANT – Rapid weight loss in an overweight cat can lead to a serious liver disease called hepatic lipidosis, so it’s important to reduce food intake gradually and seek veterinary advice if you are unsure.


Regular, suitable exercise

overweight dalmation dog could do with some more exercise

After you have altered your pet’s diet accordingly and reduced treats, exercise is the next factor that is often recommended to change or adapt depending on your pet. It is essential to remember that exercise should always stay within their comfort levels.

If your dog or cat suffers from an orthopaedic condition, such as arthritis, it is likely that their exercise has already been altered and it is important to not change this or cause them discomfort or pain in order for them to lose weight. You should seek advice from a pet physiotherapist if your dog or cat is overweight and suffering from a health condition – you can email our team here: [email protected]

Attending a weekly hydrotherapy session may be a great alternative, or addition, to one of your dog’s daily walks. Swimming in the hydrotherapy pool not only allows weightlessness exercise but also targets the cardiovascular system meaning in the long run, your pet will not only lose weight but be fitter for it – without overexerting themselves running off lead. Keep an eye on our Facebook page for news of when our pet fitness & rehab centre will be re-open. Did you know that cats can benefit from hydrotherapy sessions too?

Whilst your pet is overweight, little and often is the best policy – particularly if they do suffer from a condition such as arthritis. Short bursts of exercise allow the joints to remain mobile and get their cardiovascular system working without overexerting them. Over time, the time spent walking may be able to increase depending on your pet. Other activities such as mental stimulation and enrichment also keep your pet moving without the need for overly long walks.

You might also enjoy reading Five tips for getting the most out of your dog’s walk

And here are five tips for keeping your dog entertained whilst staying at home


When it comes to increasing your cat’s exercise, you can encourage them to play more with toys, and if you’re feeling really creative, you could make them a ‘DIY Home Gym‘, consisting of cardboard boxes to jump in and out of, toilet roll rubes to kick about, and other obstacles to master. Remember though, if your cat has mobility issues, jumping up and down from a height should be avoided.

Learn how to create a home gym for your cat


For more information on overhauling your pet’s diet, check out the next blog post in our series:

Seven ways to cut calories from your pet’s diet


Other blog posts in this series:


Eve bestwick is a fully qualified pet physiotherapist in Bromsgrove


The Author: Eve Bestwick is a fully qualified pet physiotherapist at our Pet Fitness & Rehabilitation Centre in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire. Eve enjoys working with a variety of animals and has a special interest in canine arthritis and rehabilitation.




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