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Weight Loss in Dogs & Cats – How to Help

As loving pet owners, we all want our pets to be happy and healthy. The health of our pets is one of our top priorities, but being mindful with portion sizes and the frequency of feeding can prove difficult – especially if your pets are constantly asking for their mealtime! This article explores weight loss in dogs and cats, and what you can do to help

If you are becoming concerned about your beloved pet’s health, this week for National Pet Obesity Awareness Day, we encourage you to continue reading for ways you can help your furry friend stay in the best shape possible.

Is My Dog Overweight?

A dog should have a smooth waist that slightly tucks inwards. Have a look at their stomach from above, and from the side, and feel underneath to check if it does go inwards. You should be feeling for their ribs, spine and hipbones. These should not be sticking out, but should be easy to feel. At the base of the tail, check for any excess build up of fat.

Health Risks of My Dog Being Overweight

Overweight dogs may be more prone to:  

  • Arthritis and back problems
  • Diabetes
  • Breathing problems, especially if your dog is of the flat faced breeds.
  • Higher risk of injury
  • A reduced lifespan

How Can I Help to Manage Weight Loss in Dogs

How much food your dog requires entirely depends on their breed, so it’s best to check with your vet how much they should have in a day. However, a good starting point would be two equal sized meals a day. A good way to stop them eating their food too quickly is to try them with puzzle bowls. These can be helpful in preventing them from gobbling their food up too quickly. If you suspect your dog is starting to gain or lose weight very quickly, contact your vet immediately as it could be a sign that your dog is unwell.

We recommend to not feed your dog human food. Food that we eat can have some serious side effects for our beloved dogs. Never feed them leftover or cooked bones either as this can be fatal if a bone gets lodged.

Giving them the occasional tasty dog treat can be fine, just be careful not to “treat” them too often. Treats are not complete meals, so they won’t contain the suitable amount of nutrients that a complete meal would. If you want to find more ways to reward your dog for great behaviour without tempting them with food, you can opt for giving them a new toy, going on a walk somewhere different from their usual place, or simply spending good quality time with them! Alternatively, if you do want to treat them to something tasty, we have some great recipes for healthy treats here! If you do opt for this, just make sure that their treat allowance doesn’t exceed more than 10% of their daily food. If you’re concerned about their weight, seek professional advice as they likely could suggest to cut out all treats in the first instance.

Is My Cat Overweight?

A cat should have a slight abdominal tuck. The area between their ribs and hips should move inwards slightly, so that their waist looks defined. If you are unable to find their waist or feel where it is, then they could be overweight.  The hips or ribs should be wider than their waist, and the base of their tail should have a tiny amount of fat protecting the bones, however you should be able to feel the outline of the bones with minimal effort. Schedule a health check for your cat if you are concerned, and never drastically change their diet or stop feeding them if they show signs of being overweight.

Overweight cats may be more prone to:

  • Struggling to jump or climb the stairs
  • Being unable to move around freely – they may struggle with things like the cat flap.
  • Unclean or matted fur
  • Sore bones or joints
  • Less frequent bowel movements
  • Sleeping more than normal
  • Lack of interest in playing
  • Their collar becoming tighter

How Can I Help to Manage Weight Loss in Cats

Keep an eye on how many people in your household feed your cat. It may help to have one person who feeds them daily to avoid duplicating their mealtimes. Cat’s can trick you into thinking they’re starving when really, they’re just asking for your attention!

If your cat likes to be fed throughout the day, try them on a little-but-often routine. If you think your cat would prefer to sleep most of the day, then stick to a slightly larger portions less often. A good guideline for food portions for cats is about the size of your hand, however this is entirely dependent on their size and weight. Always check with your vet for exact portion sizes and be consistent with what you do give them. Purchasing a specific measuring cup can help you weigh out their portion sizes. 

To try and encourage your cat to move more can be tricky, especially if they tend to like to curl up and sleep. You may find that cat scratching posts or catnip toys can help to encourage them to move more though.

Always Remember!

Please remember, never self-diagnose conditions in your pets. If you are concerned about how to manage weight loss in dogs or cats, always refer them to your local vet practice for advice and support on how to help. Never change their diet without checking with your vet beforehand. Cats need a diet full of varied meats, so never restrict their meat intake, or put them on a vegetarian diet as a way to help with their weight. Your vet will be able to provide a complete nutritional guide for them based on their body condition.

You can also speak to your local vet about their options for Pet Health Plans as these are a great, affordable way to keep up with regular health checks. Check if your local practice is part of our network and if they have a Pet Health Plan.