Overhauling your pet’s diet can make a big difference if they are overweight. Ideally, this should be done with the help and support of a veterinarian, however, whilst the current lockdown measures are in place, there are a few options you can explore yourself to kickstart the process.
Don’t forget, food is only part of the solution. Increasing your pet’s exercise is also important for improving your pet’s weight and health.
We recommend making changes gradually and monitoring your pet’s weight and how their body condition feels every couple of weeks to chart their progress. You should keep a closer eye on your pet’s thirst level, toileting habits, and mood, to ensure their new diet isn’t affecting them in a negative way.
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.
Have you checked if your pet is overweight using the Body Scoring Chart?
7 tips for reducing your pet’s calories:
1. Reduce portion size – this may take some trial and error, and you will need to feel and weigh your pet about twice a month to see if it’s making a difference. Read the portion information on the food packet as a starting point to work out what your pet should be having. If you’re giving them too much, reduce it gradually.
2. Measure your pet’s daily food amount – you’ll be surprised how many people fill a bowl with ‘roughly the right amount’ of kibble and leave it for a dog or cat to gorge on. Once you start weighing out your pet’s daily food it will be much easier to reduce or increase the amount when necessary.
3. If you have 2 or more pets, give them separate bowls – this will help to ensure each pet is getting their designated daily amount of food, as opposed to the greediest getting more.
4. Cut out ‘harmful’ human foods – no matter how cute your dog or cat looks, they don’t need calorie-laden human foods in their diets; many of these can be harmful to your pets too. Common ‘human treats’ to avoid are toast, biscuits, cake, cheese (high in saturated fat), sausages & bacon (high in fat and salt). Sausages often also contain toxic ingredients like onions or garlic, and you should never give pets chocolate as this is poisonous to them.
5. Introduce healthy treats – treats are one area of your pet’s diet that you can change straight away, and one that can have a big impact on their weight. Obviously, any treats should be given in moderation and as a guide, dogs should have approximately no more than 10% of their daily calorie intake in treats.
Healthy treats for dogs might include blueberries, strawberries, apples (remove pips & core), bananas, cucumbers, carrots, peas, cooked butternut squash, sweet potato & pumpkin, tuna (in spring water), small cubes of freshly cooked chicken (boneless & skinless).
Healthy treats for cats might include tuna (in spring water), small cubes of freshly cooked chicken (boneless & skinless), cooked egg, and catnip.
Healthy recipes such as these homemade dog treats can be made in batches and will not only provide a healthy treat alternative but may save you money and a trip to the pet store!
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.
6. Use healthy treats wisely – this can be as part of your pet’s exercise routine, training sessions, as a reward for good behaviour, or after something they’re not keen on such as a nail clip or groom.
7. Change to a vet-recommended low-calorie food – if your pet is excessively overweight or obese, it might be necessary to switch their food to a lower calorie alternative. You should always discuss this with your vet first.
Other blog posts in this series:
- Health issues associated with overweight pets
- How to assess your cat or dog’s weight with body condition scoring
- How extra weight affects your pet’s mobility
- How to manage your cat or dog’s weight through diet and exercise