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Safely slim your pet in 8 simple steps


1. Identify if your pet is overweight or obese

An overweight a pet is up to 15% heavier than the optimal weight for species, breed, sex and age. An overweight pet will show an increase in fat over the ribs, a slightly rounded abdomen, flank folds hanging down with a moderate amount of fat visible and a noticeable jiggle when walking.

An obese pet is more than 15% heavier than the optimal weight. The animal’s ribs and backbone are not easily felt under a heavy fat covering. A rounded abdomen makes the wait less visible to absent, and prominent flank folds which sway when walking are evident.

2. Consult your vet

Before putting your pet on a diet, it is important to seek the advice of your veterinary surgeon. Some animals may be obese as a result of a medical condition, certain drugs or rare genetic defects, and therefore it is important to rule out clinical problems beforehand. Many practices run free nurse clinics and will be able to help you to weigh your cat or dog, advise of your pet’s optimal weight, set achievable targets and provide motivation and support.

3. Set achievable short term goals

Set goals to meet along the way to the target weight. Weigh your pet regularly and keep a record to ensure that weight loss is occurring steadily and safely. Just like humans, cats and dogs should never crash diet, but instead make sustainable changes to the daily routine to promote long-term good health.

A 0.5-2.0% loss of body weight per week is generally safe for dogs. Cats should not lose more than 1% of body weight per week because overly rapid weight loss and / or a sudden decrease of food can cause a serious health condition called hepatic lipidosis.

4. Diet selection

You may not need to change your pet’s diet. Revisit the feeding guidelines on pack first and try feeding a little bit less than the amount recommended for your pet’s healthy target. Weigh your pet before and after to see if being mindful or feeding as recommended with no extras has an effect.

Do, however take a closer look at the ingredients label, aiming to avoid foods with added sugars such as fructose and sucrose, and high levels of fat.

There are many complete of diets on the market aimed at helping reduce pets’ weight. They generally have fewer calories and reduced fat (the legal requirement for a ‘light’ diet being a minimum 15% less calories than the standard diet offered).

Nutritional supplements may also be included as potentially beneficial for dieting dogs and cats. The Arden Grange complete Light diets include a unique combination of the following; L-carnitine (which may increase the conversion of fat to energy and help to maintain lean body mass in dogs), natural plant extracts with powerful antioxidant properties which may help to combat the harmful effects of free radicals from which the obese animal is at greater risk, nucleotides (natural proteins derived from yeast) which enhance metabolic function, prebiotics FOS & MOS, which are a good food source for the friendly gut bacteria and may also help to limit the growth of pathogenic bacteria, and glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM to help to provide protection and relief from joint problems which have arisen secondary to obesity.

5. Be treat aware

Did you know that there are more than twice the calories in one popular dog biscuit snack than there are in one Arden Grange Light Crunchy Bite biscuit? One popular dental stick (medium size) contains 77 calories, which is equivalent to 20g of Arden Grange Adult Chicken and Rice adult dog food. This is a significant amount of calories for a dieting dog, especially a small breed. Lots of dogs are given pigs’ ears and raw hide chews, but they are comprised largely of indigestible protein which can hinder digestion and upset the metabolism. Fried pigs’ ears are very fatty and contain a lot of unnecessary calories for little nutritional value.

Why not give your dog some apple or carrot instead as a healthier, vitamin-rich low calorie treat to chew? By all means continue to reward your dog or cat for good behaviour, but make sure any treats given are healthy and nutritious and that the main diet is suitably reduced to allow for those extra calories.

6. Change gradually

Any dietary change (be it a new food or a change to the feeding volume) should be undertaken gradually. This will give the digestive system time to cope with any new ingredients and the new nutrient balance, thus helping to avoid digestive upsets and hunger. We have more information on how to gradually and safely change from one food brand to another for cats and dogs.

Dramatic reductions in food are not recommended because your pet is likely to become very hungry, and may start to exhibit antisocial behaviors such as begging and bin raiding. Feeding too little can be just as harmful as feeding too much, and may result in constipation, energy loss, a slower metabolic rate and even nutrient deficiencies over time.

7. Consider Increase feeding frequency

If you are only feeding once or twice a day, try increasing the frequency of feeding. Smaller more frequent feeds will help to stabilise blood sugar levels. This has a knock-on positive effect on serotonin; commonly known as the “happy hormone”. It is also the hormone responsible for feelings of satiety. More frequent feeds also add interest to the day. Be careful not to exercise dogs to near to a feed.

8. Get your pet moving

Exercise is an important part of obesity management and will help to burn calories and increase the resting metabolic rate. Care must be taken with very obese or unfit animals, particularly if these pets suffer from medical conditions related to their weight. Little and often is the way forward, so make sure you incorporate some time into your pet’s routine for fun and games as these are both physically and mentally stimulating.

Take a look at our light diets for cats and dogs. For more help and advice on your individual pet’s requirements ask our nutritionist here.

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