Has your pet picked up some weight? Feelgood Pets' Tips!

During the festive season and over the holidays, we are all guilty of indulging in yummy foods and desserts with friends and family. Once the holiday season is over, we can definitely feel that we’ve packed on a few pounds. However, we are not the only ones to gain holiday weight! Our pets also tend to gain weight just like us over the holidays. As we nibble and snack, we are either feeding our pets extra treats (because it’s the holidays), giving them left-overs or not exercising them as much as we should be (because we are having too fun to walk them). Here are our Pet Expert’s top tips on how to help your pet lose weight safely and avoid obesity.

1. Know your pet’s ideal weight

Pet owners are often in denial about their dog or cat’s weight and do not want to admit that they are overweight. I often hear, “But she hardly eats a thing or he’s big-boned”.  For quick ways to tell if your pet is overweight – if it’s difficult to feel the ribs under fat, check for a sagging stomach and if you can actually grab a handful of fat and look for a broad, flat back and no waist.

In order to start your pet’s weight loss journey, it is your responsibility as a pet owner to know what your dog or cat’s ideal weight is. Consult your vet to weigh your pet and if your pet has gained excess weight, have him examined to rule out underlying conditions such as diabetes, hypothyroidism, arthritis or Cushing's disease.
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2. Amount of calories

When you know what your pooch or kitty’s ideal weight it is, the amount of calories that you feed them is very important in order to prevent weight gain and obesity. Very often, pet owners will either underfeed or over-feed their pet. You have to know how many calories are in that cup of food that you are feeding your pet and be very disciplined about measuring out the exact portion that he should eat. High calorie treats and snacks are also one the main culprits for an overweight pet. Choose low calorie snacks and limit to one per day. 

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3. Free feeding

In many pet homes, food is made available 24/7! It’s no wonder we have such a fast growing problem of overweight dogs and cats in our country. If you leave food out for your pet during the day to feed on when he wants and how much he wants to, then this is called free feeding. The reason why pet owners do this is usually because they are not home all the time or have hectic schedules, and therefore don’t have to worry about feeding their pets. The problem here is just like us humans, dogs and cats will eat out of boredom instead of when they are hungry and then gain weight.
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4. Portion control feeding at specific times

Feeding your pet at scheduled times is a much healthier method than leaving food out all day. Make sure that you are feeding according to the instructions on the pet food labels and measuring with a food scoop (and not a coffee mug or jug!). Watching food portion sizes is critical if you are eager to see your furry friend drop those pounds.

Dogs should be fed twice daily and the total amount of calories fed should be measured out according to what they need to maintain their ideal weight. Cats should also be fed twice daily and it’s best to use the portion-control method.  Keep in mind that pets like routine – they look forward to their meals at set times, so make an effort to make this happen. You’ll be rewarded with a few licks, wagging tails or a gentle purr, now isn’t that worth it!
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5. Choose quality food for weight loss

While there are a wide range of “low calorie or lite” pet foods on the market, they are not always the best or healthiest option for weight loss. These foods often contain high levels of carbohydrate fillers to replace meat content which are manufactured to keep your pet full. In many cases, it does the complete opposite and leaves your pet hungry and begging for food.

Feed your pet a vet recommended brand of food with a higher protein and lower calorie content for weight loss. An all-natural diet for pets is highly recommended to achieve successful weight loss. Natural and preservative–free foods such as DoggoBone Raw Active Food for dogs and Vondis cooked foods are an excellent alternative to commercial and prescription foods. Best of all, they don’t only help your pet to maintain and lose weight but also improve their skin condition, boost their immune system and improve general health. (Available from Feelgood Health, Unit 6, Westlake Lifestyle Centre, Westlake Business park, Cape Town or call 021 797 0193)
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6. Exercise

During the holiday season, we usually slack off on our exercise routines and as a result our beloved pets also suffer. We all know by now how important exercise is but often forget to put it into practice. As important as it is for us to be active and keep moving, the same rule applies for our pets.

Exercise has so many health benefits for pets, you’d be doing your pooch or kitty an injustice to let them become overweight and obese! Dogs in particular that are exercised regularly are seldom display destructive or hyperactive and excitable behavior. They are agile and confident with a healthy weight. Take your dog for a walk, play fetch, run or swim to keep him active and in shape. Remember to start slowly if your dog is overweight and choose an activity such as swimming which does not place too much strain on the joints. Exercise should be taken in the early morning or evening when it is cooler, as pet are also prone to overheating in the midday heat.

Indoor cats may provide more of challenge when it comes to exercising and needing more physical activity in their life. Set up an area in your home where your kitty can play, jump and romp around. Cat trees or scratching pads work well for this type of activity. Spend about 15 to 30 minutes each day in some form of activity – attach a toy mouse, bird or fish to the end of a stick or string and dangle it for them to try and reach or throw a ball of wool and let them chase after it. 

Keep in mind that it is possible to maintain a healthy lifestyle for your pet by making simple choices such as choosing a high quality food, serving portion-controlled sizes at mealtimes, providing healthy snacks and regular exercise for them.
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