If your pet has gained a few too many pounds, it’s time to get them on a diet as too much weight can have dire implications on their health.
The good news: Since you determine the feed intake of your animal, it is not difficult to put your dog or cat on a diet, but it takes time. That is why the golden rule of weight loss is “patience.” The weight of your furry friend can be influenced by two main factors: diet and exercise. The following five tips are sure to help them lose weight.
1. Skip snacks or reduce the food by the equivalent calories
Proceed step by step. A radical reduction in feed or even a zero diet is not the solution, it creates stress and only promotes your pet's feeling of hunger. As with humans, the calorie intake needs to be less than the calorie expenditure.
Very important: The little snacks in between, such as a piece of liver sausage, cheese, pig's ear or some condensed milk for the cat, should either be completely eliminated for the duration of the diet or the regular food amount should be reduced accordingly.
2. Document the progress of the diet
To do this, weigh your dog or cat and note down the starting weight and the desired target weight. Repeat this process weekly - preferably always at the same time of day. The weekly target weight should also be written down. A dog must not lose more than 2% of its body weight per week on a diet. With older dogs it should be even less. Cats should lose about 1 to 2% of their body weight per week while on a diet.
3. Choose the type of food wisely
If you want to choose between dry and wet food, then wet food is recommended. Due to the high proportion of moisture, its energy density is lower. Cats and dogs have a full stomach and will still have consumed fewer calories than with dry food of the same amount.
Avoid food declared as “light.” In these foods, the calorie content is significantly lower than with normal feed. However, this has a rather detrimental effect on the already slowed metabolism of your furry friend. The feed does not contain enough energy. The falling metabolism and the lack of nutritional content also cause tiredness and lethargy, which hinders weight loss.
If your pet gets a home-cooked diet or is on BARF (raw feeding), you should reduce the fat content and especially carbohydrates and starch (from potatoes, cereals, and rice). Tender, low-fat meats such as chicken, turkey, fish, or lean beef are recommended. Low-sugar vegetables such as spinach leaves, broccoli, cucumber, lettuce, zucchini, are good supplements. Fruits are also always a good idea for a dog or cat diet. Test whether your darling likes to eat watermelon, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, or kiwi.
Cellulose and psyllium husks can also be used to support a diet as neither cellulose nor psyllium husks have any nutritional value, but regulate the intestinal activity as dietary fiber and promote the feeling of satiety. Psyllium husks also have a high proportion of mucilage and can bind five times the volume of water. Since they swell up, your pet will stay full longer. Before you mix the seeds into the feed, let them soak a little to help with digestion.
4. Make sure your dog or cat is getting enough exercise
Nothing works without movement! Diet is always a combination of reduced calorie intake and increased exercise. You should adjust the type of movement depending on the excess weight of your companion. For example, some dogs should not be expected to walk for hours or go on a bike ride at the start of training, and ball games or frisbee should also be avoided for the time being. Exercise in the form of several walks a day is recommended. Try brisk walks with breaks or slow walking phases. Swimming or the water treadmill are also part of a good weight loss plan because they are gentle on the joints, build up muscles and use up calories.
Movement is quite easy with cats that have been allowed to be outside. They are also usually less prone to weight gain. The situation is different with indoor cats. Here you can train little tricks with clicker training and promote mental work. You can also use food balls so that your cat must work out the food. Games with a cat rod or empty cardboard boxes are also helpful. In general, you can use anything that offers your house tiger variety and keeps them moving.
5. Hang in there and be consistent
To keep off the excess weight, consistency and perseverance are particularly important. During the entire course of the diet, it is crucial for your animal that you do not become weak and give in to their begging pleas. Meanwhile, it is worth paying attention to outside food sources. Our pets can be very resourceful here: garbage bags, compost heaps, birdseed, and the food of neighbour’s cats. If you also keep an eye on these factors, your little friend will have long-term success and get fitter again.