(BPT) - While many loving pet owners are unaware their pet may not be at their healthiest weight, the fact is that more than half of cats and dogs in the U.S. are indeed overweight or obese, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. Overweight pets tend to be less active, experience joint pain, groom less and develop more health conditions, so it’s important to take a proactive approach to help your pets live a long, healthy life.
Two of Purina’s pet experts, behaviorist Dr. Annie Valuska and veterinarian Dr. Callie Harris, help by answering frequently asked questions about pet weight concerns:
How can you tell if your pet is a healthy weight?
“A great way to start is to give your pet a ‘healthy hug,’” advises Dr. Harris. This involves three steps:
1. Evaluate the ribs: Place your hands gently on your pet’s sides. You should be able to run your hands down their chest and feel their ribs without having to “press” or “dig” in.
2. Evaluate the waist: Stand above your pet. You should be able to see a waistline or an “hourglass” shape.
3. Evaluate the abdomen: Stand to the side of your pet. Your pet should have a nice abdominal tuck.
“If you suspect your pets are overweight, consider switching to a weight management food for adult dogs and cats to help them achieve and maintain a healthy weight,” she says. “A few Purina formulas I’d recommend include: Beneful Healthy Weight with Farm-Raised Chicken Dry Adult Dog Food, which uses calorie-smart nutrition to help dogs maintain a healthy weight, Pro Plan Adult Weight Management for cats and dogs, which maintains muscle mass during weight loss, Purina ONE Ideal Weight High Protein for adult cats that helps spayed and neutered cats burn fat and maintain a healthy weight and Purina ONE Healthy Weight High Protein for adult dogs, which promotes lean body mass in your dog and helps maintain a healthy body condition even after a healthy weight is achieved.”
Dr. Harris adds, “It’s also always good idea to consult with your veterinarian to rule out potential medical problems that could cause weight gain.”
How much should you feed your pet?
Dr. Harris says, “Be sure to feed your pet with the amount instructed on your pet’s food labels. You can find specific directions for Purina products on each bag of food. However, if you are still concerned about over or under feeding, discuss with your veterinarian so they can evaluate your pet and make nutritional recommendations.”
Dr. Valuska adds, “No matter how much your pets try to convince you otherwise, feeding them table scraps is never a good idea. Remove the temptation to give them a bite of your dinner by training them to spend meal time away from the table — in a crate, for example — and reward their good manners with pet-appropriate treats and praise.”
What do you do when your pet begs like they’re still hungry?
Dr. Valuska asks, “Are you sure your pet is hungry? Our first impulse when pets start pestering us is to assume they want food, but pets may actually be asking for attention, exercise or playtime. Next time you think your pet is begging for food, try offering some ear scratches, a fun play session with a favorite toy or a walk outside instead.
"If your pet is still hungry, one way you may be able to help your pet feel fuller longer is to extend their mealtime. Try using slow feed bowls or puzzle feeders.”
How do you incorporate exercise into your pet’s routine?
Dr. Harris says, “One easy way for pet owners with dogs to exercise is to take them on daily walks. However, if outdoor walks are not obtainable due to weather, consider creating activities in the home with your dogs such as ‘find the treat’ using treat mats. You can even be strategic about where you place your food and water bowls to encourage your dog to get up and move.”
Dr. Valuska adds, “Cats need exercise, too! Engage their instincts with a game of chase — this can be with a laser pointer, a ball or a toy on the end of a wand. Some cats prefer to ‘hunt’ toys along the ground, while others are more excited by trying to catch toys out of the air. Try different combinations with your cat and see what they like best. If you do use a laser pointer, make sure you always end the game with the laser on a toy that your cat can catch to ensure your cat doesn’t end up feeling frustrated or anxious.”
Helping your pet achieve and maintain a healthy weight is important to their overall well-being. For more resources and to see Purina’s full portfolio of healthy weight formulas, visit www.purina.com/healthypets.