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Whether you’re interested in losing weight, improving your diet, or getting more active this year, you may want to also consider setting the same goals for your pet.
In Canada, fewer than two in 10 pet owners are feeding their pets the recommended serving size. It’s no surprise that nearly 60 per cent of Canadian pets are overweight. Between overfeeding, too many treats, poor quality food, and too many table scraps, pets have seen a dramatic increase in weight, an issue only exacerbated by a growth in sedentary lifestyles.
We chatted with veterinarian and Rover.com pet panel expert Dr. Rebecca Greenstein to get her tips on what we should be doing to keep our pets in shape this year.
According to Greenstein, obesity-related insurance claims for veterinary treatments in Canada topped $69 million in 2017 — a 24 per cent increase over the last decade.
It may seem that your chubby house pet simply has a few pounds to lose, but excess weight can lead to serious diseases like osteoarthritis, diabetes, and heart disease, in addition to decreasing lifespan by up to two years.
The first step in changing your pet’s diet and lifestyle should always be to check in with your vet. They can devise a proper weight loss and nutrition plan and performa a full physical to rule out any underlying health problems that could be leading your pets to pack on pounds excessively.
“Next, we calculate calorie needs and compare with the current diet, including all treats, rawhides, and table scraps,” says Greenstein. “[This] really highlights where extra calories are coming from and where tweaks can be made.”
While some pets benefit tremendously from being started on specific weight control food, others just need to be fed less of their usual diet.
Since there are no one-size-fits-all caloric requirement for pets, diet changes should always be discussed with your vet to come up with an individualized calorie count that’s appropriate for your unique pet’s weight loss journey.
“The aim should be gradual weight loss: about 1-2 per cent body weight per week or so,” recommends Greenstein.
As for pet owners, ensuring that our furry friends are getting the correct amount of calories for their age, size, and breed is crucial to maintaining a healthy weight. Start by reading all labels for kibbles and treats to make sure that the amount matches the vet’s instructions, and follow the recommended serving size to avoid overfeeding.
“Remember that calorie count varies dramatically between brands and flavours, so one cup of one type of kibble could have double or triple the calories of another type, even though the physical amount is the same,” Greenstein cautions.
The final factor to take into account after diet is, of course, exercise. Dog owners should aim for 30 minutes or more of physical activity per day, while cat owners should aim for about 15 minutes or more a day.
If that seems like too large of a commitment, Greenstein recommends breaking it up into shorter segments, or investing in pet services like dog walkers and cat sitters who are able to provide exercise while you’re away.
“Don’t think of exercising as something to do in a large chunk – five to ten minutes of play several times a day adds up to significant exercise and it’s way more likely you’ll carry it out if the goals are easier to attain.”
It’s never been easier or more fun to keep your pet active, with everything from step trackers to automated treat launchers that make playtime a high-tech event. As with any major life changes, remember that slow and steady progress is the key to success, as well as safe weight loss.
If you’re looking to get your pet in shape this year, ahead you’ll find some of our favourite items based on Dr. Greenstein’s recommendations to make 2020 your pet’s healthiest year yet.
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