Top Tips for Tip Top Weight Loss!

The New Year brings diets for lots of people but many of us should also be thinking about helping our pets to slim down as well! (Me included – read about my cat’s dieting journey here!)

Here are a short collection of tips to get your doggy to drop a dress size and your cats counting their calories!

Encourage good eating habits from when your pet is young;

  • Feed your pet only at meal times and do not give in to demands for extra food
  • Use treats only as a training aid or a reward for good behaviour (not to soothe your guilt if you leave them or as a substitute for your attention!)
  • Do not vary the food too much, this will encourage your pet to be fussy, as they will know to wait to see if something better is coming along!
  • Do not encourage begging behaviour by giving in to it – seriously, you need to be strong!

Good eating habits start from being young – no matter how cute they are!!

Weigh out your pets food

  • Never estimate the amount you feed your pet, always weigh it out
  • Which can be a faff, so use a see though plastic container to mark on the amount of food and just fill it up to that level!
  • If you feed a mixed diet of dry and tinned food, remember to reduce the recommended daily allowances of each to ensure you do not overfeed (This also counts if you add a ‘bit of something’ on top of the dry food so they will eat it!)

Having some objective way of ensuring your pet gets the same amount of food every day is vital – don’t trust your eye – you WILL be too generous!

Change the way you feed them

  • Feeding two small meals a day, or more, compared to one large one can really help to keep your pet feeling full. It also powers up their metabolism and stops them begging for treats as they won’t get as hungry between feeds.
  • This is a particularly good technique for cats as it mimics their natural eating behaviour and discourages gorging.
  • I am a BIG fan of using slow feeder bowls or treat balls to feed pets their usual meals.  It makes them work for their food and because it takes longer to eat a meal – their bodies have the chance to realise they are full!

Fatty gets fed every day out of his NorthMate slow feeder bowl and it really helps!


Feed an appropriate diet for your pet

  • Consider switching to a ‘light’ diet if your pet is over weight, or prone to gaining weight.
  • There are now specific diets for neutered pets, the surgery changes their metabolism and although weight gain isn’t inevitable (!) it is harder to prevent and these take that into account.
  • There are also ones for different breeds (anyone who owns a Labrador knows they can live on air!) and for different lifestyles, for example indoor cats.
  • I am a big fan of the Hills Metabolic range of foods.  I used them to great effect on Fatty and recommend them regularly to my clients!

There are loads of different diets on the market tailored for specific breeds or lifestyles. Finding one that suits your pet can take out a lot of the guess work of feeding them!

Cut back on treats!

  • Treats and ‘extras’ can really add calories to your pets diet, try to cut back on them as much as possible!
  • Only reward your pet when they have done something worth rewarding!
  • Remember, your attention and fuss is just as important to your pet as a treat!
  • When you do treat your pet, look at what is in your hand and break it in half, instantly halving the amount of calories they take in.  For them, it isn’t about the amount of food they get, it is the fact they get anything at all.
  • Try giving your dog a carrot instead! Lots of them love crunching them up!

Those big brown eyes say ‘I’ve not been fed today’, when you know full well that they have! Don’t let them fool you!!

Use a ‘daily food tub’

  • Keep the plastic container with your pets daily food allowance on the side. Use the biscuits out of that to treat them or give them extras.
  • When the tub is empty, you know your pet has had their food for the day, and they shouldn’t have any more.
  • This is particularly good for families where more than one person feeds or treats your pet, as everyone knows when the tub is bare, thats it!

Do not give table scraps

  • Table scraps are one of the biggest culprits for encouraging your pet to gain weight and if they need to go one a diet, they should be cut out completely.
  • Human food is often loaded with calories, and many animals stomachs cannot cope with its richness.
  • If you cannot resist your pets pleading eyes at the table, then remove them from the room while you are eating.
  • If you don’t eat their dog biscuits – then they can’t have your dinner!

Increase your pets exercise

  • This is vital if your pet is to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.
  • Dogs should have at least 1 hours off the lead exercise every day.
  • Encourage cats to play, or let them outside.  Cats enjoy variety in their toys, so buy a selection of cheap ones and rotate them around.
ALL dogs - no matter how big or small - need a good run off the lead every day!

ALL dogs – no matter how big or small – need a good run off the lead every day!

Make sure they are not getting fed elsewhere

  • This is particularly relevant for cats, who will often pop to the neighbours for a second breakfast!
  • However, many dogs will often spend the day with family or friends while their owners are out at work.
  • Make sure everybody knows that your pet is on a diet and not too feed them any extras.

Finally – don’t forget your small furries!

  • Rabbits are particularly prone to obesity because a) their natural shape is pretty round (!), b) they are often over-fed high calorie pelleted food and c) they often don’t exercise much in small cages and runs.
  • If they are too fat they will be vulnerable to fly strike, arthritis and sore skin around their bottoms.
  • You should be easily able to feel your buns ribs and when they stretch out they should be slim, not stay a cuddly bunny!
  • Restrict your rabbits food intake by limiting their hard food, keeping fresh fruit (not veg!) to a minimum and always ensuring they have good quality hay available.
  • Making them work for their food helps them too!  Puzzle balls are available for bunnies too and will keep them busy for hours!
  • Exercising is also important – for their mental wellbeing as well as physical.  The largest run you can afford or, if you can, why not bunny proof your garden?!  You could even harness train them and take them for a walk!

Rabbits always look very round! But it is important to ensure that it really is all fluff and not fat!

Look – I know it is hard to get a pet to lose weight but it is more than worth it.  They will live longer, happier, healthier lives if they are slim – much like their owners!

You can follow me on Twitter; @cat_the_vet and find me on FaceBook;  Cat_The_Vet

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