Overweight Pet? The Sneaky Reasons Your Pet Isn’t Losing Weight

For pets and people alike, it’s easier to keep the weight off than to lose it. An overweight pet with even a few extra pounds can experience disastrous consequences to their long term health and wellness. However, weight-loss diets can be very difficult to maintain – especially once behavioral patterns are established to overeat, sneak treats, and munch on snacks throughout the day.  

The Heart of the Matter

The perils of pet obesity are becoming more commonly understood. Despite warnings of developing associated diseases (such as osetoarthritis, diabetes, cancer) and early mortality, a shockingly high number of pets are considered overweight or obese, especially seniors.

The Breakdown

Weight gain occurs when an individual consumes too many calories with insufficient opportunities to burn them off. Many pets live fairly sedentary lives and eat energy-dense food. Lots of naps combined with even a normal amount of food plus regular treats can be so much more damaging than you think.

An overweight pet simply needs less food and more exercise, right? It’s not always as easy as that.

The Measuring Cup

Overfeeding is the most obvious reason for added weight, but certain medical conditions like Cushing’s syndrome or hypothyroidism can affect a pet’s metabolism. Before you make changes to  your pet’s diet, we recommend ruling out what could be going on beneath the surface. 

Additionally, a wellness exam is helpful in discerning whether your pet is up for rigorous exercise from now on.

Trying to Lose Weight

There could be many other explanations behind why an overweight pet isn’t losing weight, or isn’t losing it fast enough. 

The ideal place to start is with an understanding of the Body Condition Score (BCS). Taking into account your pet’s species, breed, age and lifestyle we can determine their weight and exercise plan, all in order for them to achieve the optimal score on the BCS. 

A Greater Challenge

Once you know how much your pet should ideally weigh, you can determine their daily intake of food, snacks, treats, supplements, and people food. Take a long look at the ingredients lists on food labels, and call us with any questions

An overweight pet might benefit from shaving about 25-40% of their previous calorie count, but because they depend on critical vitamins and nutrients, cutting calories from their meals isn’t necessarily a healthy alternative. Instead, reduce the amount of extra calories they receive from snacks and treats. 

The Rx Solution

Prescription diets can help to ensure an overweight pet gets all the nutrition they need, without extra calories. We are happy to discuss viable options for your pet’s weight and lifestyle. 

While dieting, we recommend weighing your pet every 2-4 weeks and noting any changes on the BCS. It’s reasonable to aim for losing 1-2% of body weight every week. That being said, it can take over a month for pet owners to see any changes. Please let us know if no changes to weight have occurred after 4-6 weeks. 

Still Struggling

While restricting unnecessary calories is the foundation for weight loss, the process can be supported by increased exercise. Preserving muscle mass and increasing metabolism are just two benefits of exercising to lose weight.

Other options may involve:

  • Food puzzles
  • Slow feeders
  • Fresh veggies and fruits (to help your pet feel full during meals)
  • Ensuring that all family or household members are adhering to the dietary restrictions (and always use the same exact measuring cup!)
  • Camp Canine can keep your pup distracted from a rumbling tummy and will engage them in calorie-burning activities 

Dedication to an Overweight Pet

A few extra pounds put on over the course of many months can really sneak up on pet owners. Surely, preventing extra weight gain is the best option, but with daily discipline and dedication, an overweight pet can definitely achieve their optimal weight.

As always, if we can assist you with questions, please let us know at Animal Family Veterinary Care Center.

Animal Family’s Guide to Cat Weight loss

Weight Loss for Cats

How did my cat get so fat?

In theory, if an animal burns more calories than it takes in, weight loss should be the result.  After all, your cat can’t exactly raid the refrigerator at midnight.  Weight loss should be simple, right?  Perhaps but that doesn’t make it easy.

Problem #1: Cats are very thrifty when it comes to calories.  Their slow metabolic rate means that some cats can eat a relatively small amount and still get fat.

Did you know that 1 cup of maintenance is too much for the majority of cats?   Yet when we speak to many owners in our clinic we frequently hear that is what they are feeding. The truth is, many cats can actually get by on a 1/3 cup or less of food per day.

Problem #2: Most domesticated cats don’t do much. We keep them indoors and lazy.  They may move from room to room but any hunting they do consists of finding their food bowl  Even worse, if they eat a dry kibble, that food may contain 40% or more carbohydrates.  No wonder our cats are fat.

Conversely, a typical outdoor feral cat covers thousands of square feet of territory daily to find, capture and kill its own food.  Outdoor cats may eat up to 6 – 9 mice per day (about 180 -200 calories).  Even more important, a mouse diet is comprised mainly of water, protein and fat with very few carbohydrates.

So how much should I feed my cat?

Solution #1: Most of us have no idea how much our cat eats.  We just refill the bowl when it’s empty.  Try using a ¼ cup scoop to measure how much you’re currently feeding. This will give you a base to work from.

Dry Food Suggestions

  • If you are going to continue using the same diet try reducing the amount by 10 -15% to start with.
  • If you are changing to a dry weight loss diet, figure out how many calories your cat is receiving and decrease that amount by 10%.  You should be able to do this with the information on the bag but if you have trouble we can help out.
  • If you can’t figure out how much your pet is eating now, then make your diet change, measure accurately and move on from there.
  • DO NOT decrease calorie intake too fast on cats. They can develop fatty liver disease if weight loss occurs too quickly, which can be deadly.  1 % per week is a good goal for a cat. That is about 0.2 pounds per week on a 20 pound cat.  A dog can lose up to 2% per week.
  • Feed your cats separately if you have more than one.
  • Please work closely with your veterinarian to keep your cat safe and healthy while losing weight.

Canned Food Suggestions

  • One school of thought is that because canned food is high in protein and low in carbohydrates when compared to dry, it is also much closer to the birds and mice that cats were designed to eat. Furthermore, because cats are not really made to consume a high carbohydrate diet, dry foods can predispose them to develop diabetes. This is a valid theory but it is important to note that not all nutritionists agree with it.
  • If you would like to feed canned food, the average 6 ounce can contains 180-200 calories.  So one can per day would be a good starting point.
  • Research tells us that we can actually cut calories faster on a canned diet because of the higher protein level.  A good goal should be about 20 -25% in the beginning.  That amount can be adjusted if the cat does not lose weight.
  • In general, canned diets with gravy have higher carbohydrates and should be avoided.
  • If your cat won’t eat canned food then try a dry prescription diet which will generally be lower in carbohydrates than over the counter diets.

We like to start a discussion on behavior enrichment/calorie burning ideas for cats. Please join us on our Facebook and share your thoughts