In September 2012, Skinny the cat weighed in at 41 pounds. Today he is down to 34 pounds, 13 ounces. A total of 7 pounds, 3 ounces weight loss in 6 months. It is hard to tell by looking at him that he has lost 17% of his body weight. He still has quite a way to go, but we are off to a great start!
I have received multiple questions and requests for help guiding individuals to their own pet's weight loss. I have put together a 5-step plan for helping pets lose weight safely.
Obesity is a systemic disease condition. Your pet, regardless of age, needs to have a full physical, metabolic and cardiac exam. This can be accomplished with your regular veterinarian. Specific samples needed from your cat include blood, urine and feces.
The tests should evaluate for and hopefully, exclude Diabetes Mellitus, thyroid disease, liver disease, kidney disease, urinary infection/ inflammation, heart disease, and blood pressure issues.
Once these tests have been conclusively completed and your pet is declared healthy with no chronic medical condition, your feline is ready to begin a weight reduction plan.
You should continue to have your pet assessed monthly during his/her weight loss plan.
There are a plethora of pet foods to choose from these days. As a consumer it can be very difficult to fully understand what you are feeding your pet. The AAFCO (http://petfood.aafco.org) has some guidelines in place to help regulate how a pet food company formulates and shares information about its food. These regulations only apply to what is printed on the food bag itself. A company can claim just about anything in commercials and on websites. It is imperative to discuss and choose a weight reduction food with your veterinarian. Trying to do it yourself can result in frustration and failure of weight reduction in your pet.
There are some newer commercial pet foods available by prescription that utilize nutrigenomics (http://nutrigenomics.ucdavis.edu) to improve your pet’s healthy weight loss.
If fresh food is your goal, then utilize the expertise of a boarded veterinary nutritionist to formulate a healthy, balanced home-prepared food for your pet. (http://www.petdiets.com)
Remember, treats add calories. If you must give treats, then calculate these calories into your pet’s weight loss plan.
If you aren’t already, start acclimating your pet to meals. This gives you better control of food intake in a multiple pet household and also allows for better assessment of how much your pet is eating.
Cats can slide into liver disease if they consume only 75% of their daily caloric needs on a regular basis. Because of this, weight reduction in felines must be done slowly and carefully. For a severely obese cat, it is best to feed 4 meals a day. This allows the stomach to shrink over time and greater satisfaction with small amounts of food.
-Consider canned food
Most canned cat foods have more protein and water content. The increased aromatics also attract felines to their food, not to mention the inherent effect the sound of the can opener has on our feline friends.
-Change your cat’s water frequently
It is tremendously important that they have free access to fresh water 24 hours a day. This helps flush the toxins as the pet begins to lose weight. If your pet gets dehydrated, they may stop eating and can slide into liver failure before you know it.
It can be difficult to directly increase your cat’s activity level. So do it indirectly. If your cat is highly social and seeks interaction with you, move his food far away from the site of most social interactions. This will facilitate more walking for the things he wants. If your cat isn’t as social, but highly enjoys meals, move the food bowl to different areas of the house. He may even follow your around a while waiting for your to place the food bowl on the floor. Take advantage of this and walk around the house for a little while before rewarding him with his food.
Use toys and designate play times to help your cat get moving. Laser pointers, catnip toys, small jingle balls can all be utilized to help increase your pet’s activity.
Consider a cat tunnel for safe outdoor time (https://www.kittywalk.com)
Do you know what your cat is doing while you are at work? Likely just hanging out on the couch. To help influence your pet’s regular activity, consider adding a family member. A two-cat household can be helpful in facilitating weight loss. Once the social order is established, most cats will interact and play when left on their own.
There are also great stimulating DVDs available to improve stimulation of your feline friend while you are out of the house( http://petsittervideos.com).
Track the progress
Since cats need to lose weight slowly, it can be difficult to determine progress by visual assessment. Consider purchasing a digital baby scale to help track progress with weekly weigh-ins (http://www.scalesgalore.com/babyscales.htm)
Write down the results of each weekly weigh-in. Healthy weight loss in a feline friend is about 1 pound per 3-4 weeks. Reassess and adjust your plan if you witness weight loss faster than this. Remember: cats are not small dogs! Felines must lose weight slowly to stay healthy.
I hope this helps:)
Brittney Barton, DVM, CVA