IMPORTANCE OF A BALANCED DIET
The best way to avoid pet weight gain creep is by offering a completely balanced meal to your pets. Both dogs and cats have different nutritional needs. Cats need to have their diets supplemented with taurine, an essential amino acid, otherwise they will develop heart and or vision problems. The bottom line is that calories ingested have to be equal to calories spent to prevent excess weight from being piled on.
The goal of nutritional guidance is to provide an adequate diet for the stage of life that a pet is going through. A young puppy or kitten is going to have a relatively higher need for calories since they are growing and need calories for muscle and other tissue development. A pregnant dog or cat is going to need many more calories on a daily basis than an older, spayed female animal. Pregnancy and lactation consume tremendous amounts of calories and have to be supplemented.
PET WEIGHT GAIN CREEP
Even with the best intentions, things can go wrong. Sometimes a couple has a young toddler sitting in a high chair that tosses his or her complete meal overboard to a waiting dog. Over time, the animal is going to gain weight. Rather than following a veterinary approved diet plan, people will often feed their pets out of a psychological need rather than a true need for nutritional sustenance. In 1991, I was presented with a 26 pound cat that had developed health care issues secondary to the weight gain. I asked the aide why the owner kept on offering food to the cat. The answer was simple. She felt sorry for the cat. What she was actually doing was killing her cat in slow motion. To put this into perspective- a cat’s heart cannot tolerate this excessive load. A cat’s heart is only about the size of a walnut!
Pet weight gain creep is achieved in a myriad of ways. A lot of the snack foods sold for pet consumption are as bad or worse than the junk food sold to humans. With humans eating badly in this country, it is no wonder that pets are gaining excessive weight. A little bit of pizza, a little bit of bacon, a little bit of ice cream or cake will add up over time. Most dogs and cats are smaller than most people so that a gain of one pound for a cat is much more severe than for an adult human.
What have I learned about this human-pet conundrum over the years? Simple. Pets mimic their owners. The majority of overweight pets are in households where the family members themselves are overweight or obese! By ridding the home of junk food and eating sensibly, both humans and their pets will live healthier lives.
Before solutions can be implemented people have to understand and recognize that there is a problem. It is as simple as that. Pet weight gain creep is eventually reflected in medical problems associated with obesity. These are serious conditions that can and will shorten an animal’s life. Once your pet is put on an appropriate weight loss program, it is crucial that you follow all recommendations of your veterinarian. Take pictures of your pet every couple of weeks or at least once a month. Why do you think that all the human weight loss companies blatantly use before and after shots? It is saying that YOU TOO can lose weight! Viewing a pet’s progress in pictures reinforces the diet and propels people to keep moving forward with a plan.
Every couple of weeks weigh your pet. If you do not have a scale, go to your local veterinarian’s office. Most, if not all, would be happy to let you use their walk on platform scales. Try substituting healthier foods if you want to give your pet a little something. Try carrots, celery and other vegetables. Stay away from raisins or grapes as these contain substances that can lead to kidney failure.
With cats, be careful of self feeders. Most cats usually only consume what they need. In some instances, cat behavior changes. There are times when cats are blamed for something they have not done! Many times there are small dogs in the home that will be more than happy to empty a feeder. A solution to that is putting all food bowls on a table that a dog cannot reach.
Does life for your pet have to be so so bad!!? Of course not! Dogs will sell their souls for the following: pizza, cheese and peanut butter. A small amount every once in a blue moon is not going to hurt any animal. So, go ahead, enjoy life!