Following the festive period, we often let ourselves go a little. We relax and enjoy ourselves, paying less attention to the number of calories entering our bodies and the lack of exercise we do. Christmas is a time to be enjoyed and diaries often become extremely busy with social events. These changes in our lifestyles often have adverse effects on our pet’s weight too. Excessive weight affects our pet’s lifestyle. It can make it harder for them to regulate core body temperature, to simply move around and furthermore, an overweight pet is much more likely to develop many serious health problems. Keeping our pets in good shape is vital if we are being responsible pet owners. So, how can we help our furry friends lose their Christmas weight?
Set a goal
Make sure you have a target weight for your pet. This helps you to track your progress and monitor how long your routine needs to be maintained for. You can set mini goals on the way to reaching your target goal. If you see progress too quickly or too slowly, you can easily adapt these goals. The rate of weight loss should be controlled as, if your pet loses weight too quickly, they will gain weight very quickly again - and too-rapid weight loss can also be harmful (causing liver disease amongst other harms). We usually recommend about 1% of body weight per week, but this varies depending on their health and how overweight they are. Talk to one of our vet nurses for advice on how rapidly your pet should be losing weight.
If you find a routine that works for both you and your pet, it should be easy to stick to it. A routine should include, waking up time, going to bed time, eating time, food content and quantity, exercise amount and intensity. Routines allow you to monitor progress and regress. This can help you to feel motivated if things are going well for your pet but also allows you to assess if certain things are too hard to maintain, making it easier to adapt those aspects once they have been identified. We can help you to plan a weight loss routine should you need advice.
Having set meal times
This helps your pet get used to a new routine. It can help to reduce their hunger and begging habits. If your pet shows signs they are hungry such as whining, begging, pottering around their food dish at a certain time each day, you could adapt their feeding time but keep the volume and content of food the same.
We recommend following a complete diet. We need to make sure our pets are getting all the nutrients they need including the vital daily requirements for both macro and micronutrients. However, we do not want to be adding calories where they are not required and will therefore be stored as excessive fat.
Treats should be minimised during a weight loss diet. When you feel you really want to give your pet a treat, you should try to make the treat as healthy as possible. After giving one treat, it is often quite tempting to give more. We therefore recommend using a chart so you can monitor how many treats your pet is having in a day. You need to make sure all family members are filling it in in order for it to be effective. The type of treat given should be noted too. Treats are often the main issue causing weight gain. Our pets need a lot fewer calories than humans, so any food leftovers or treats given in addition to their normal diet form a larger percentage of their daily total above the norm. One good solution is to give bits of their evening meal as a treat - this way the total amount of food given is the same, it is just spread out more.
Exercise is the best way to increase calorie output. The more movement your pet does, the more calories and fat they will burn. Different types of exercise are better suited to different pets. If you have a garden, giving your pet the opportunity to move around the garden for long periods can help. Some pets enjoy swimming, chasing toys, walking or going on runs… there are many different ways of increasing your pet’s exercise, but you need to see what suits your lifestyle and how much free time you have. You need to find out what your pet enjoys doing. If you struggle to get much free time during the day, you could consider getting a dog walker, or you could try to get your pet to walk up and down the stairs a lot more frequently.
Any weight loss programme will take time and will involve lifestyle changes. You need to be able to stick to the routine you select, so do not opt for activities or diet plans which are not sustainable.
Weight loss programmes should be taken very seriously. Too many of our pets are overweight and a weight loss programme is a very effective treatment choice.