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Posted on 06-24-2015

As veterinarians speaking with families about their overweight companion animals, we frequently hear “but he’s always hungry!”. It doesn’t matter how much you feed him, he still begs for more. Food is love for many of us, so of course we want to share that with our pets. But don’t equate hunger with this behavior. Being hungry is very different than wanting food. (Think Americans at Thanksgiving or some other of our more gluttonous holidays!) Your companion enjoys eating. It’s pleasant and associated with all good feelings. No surprise that he would want to repeat the process.

IMG_0171If your companion is unable to regulate the amount of food that he takes in, how can you know how much to feed him?  It seems like a tough question but really, there’s a simple way to look at this. If your pet is overweight, I recommend you reduce the amount you feed him by a small amount each week until you can see that he is losing weight.This means you will need to measure how much you are currently feeding so you know how you much you are reducing his intake each week. To be sure he isn’t losing weight too quickly, you can bring him into the office and weigh him on our scale (be sure you have a team member record the weight so we can all celebrate the progress!) at any time, but weekly or biweekly weight check is perfect.  We can give you formulas of how many calories per day or for certain levels of activity, but this is, by far, the simplest method of weight reduction for your companion.  Feed a set portion of food each day, including treats, and reduce by a small amount weekly until he loses weight. Simple and painless!

Once it’s clear your pet is losing weight, you will probably want to maintain him at that amount of daily intake until you achieve his ideal weight. Please consult with us or your veterinarian to help you determine that ideal weight for your pet. And please note that cats can become quite sick if they lose weight too rapidly, so remember–take it slow and easy.

I didn’t talk about exercise yet, but we all know exercise is good for us and good for our pets. A little exercise for an overweight pet can go a long way and as their weight decreases, their stamina will improve. In fact, their interest in exercise will probably increase because they will feel the same benefits of weight loss that many of us experience such as less musculoskeletal pain and increased energy. And you will find that both you and your pet enjoy these times together as much or more than treat times. Find ways to stimulate your pet that don’t involve food and both you and your companion will benefit!

Next post, I’ll discuss some ways to motivate your dog and cat to exercise even if they are couch potatoes.

As always, please let us know if we can be of any help!

April Linson, DVM

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