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how to help your overweight cat or dog lose weight

Easy Ways to Help Your Overweight Pet Lose Weight

It’s official. Chilly’s vet says he must lose 7 pounds this summer! It’s a sad fact that the battle to keep off the extra weight isn’t something that we pet parents fight alone. It happens to our pets pretty much the same way it could happen to any of us. They eat a little too much (or a little too much of the wrong stuff!), exercise a little too sporadically, and it starts to catch up with them.

It happens gradually. We might not even notice that they have put on a few pounds until one day we take them to the vet and get hit with the bad news: it’s time for a diet!

Just like it is with humans, maintaining the right weight in pets is about more than just looking good. Overweight dogs are at higher risk for a bunch of nasty health problems, like arthritis, diabetes, kidney and heart disease, and even cancer!

Of course we all want our pets to live the longest, healthiest lives possible, so we’ll do all we can to help them fight the battle of the bulge. Here are a few of the things I plan to do this summer to help Chilly regain his trim figure and maintain his good health.

Diet Tips to Help Pets Lose Weight

Paying attention to what we feed our pets is crucial if we want to help them lose weight. Diet tips for pets are pretty straight forward – no crazy juice diets or anything like that! It all boils down to a couple of basic steps:

Cut Back on Junk Food

Dogs love junk food just as much as we do, but we’re not doing them any favors if we let them indulge that love! We might be tempted to toss them a sample of whatever we are eating at the moment, especially if they flash us those big, irresistible puppy-dog eyes. However, if what we’re eating isn’t good for them, we need to avoid sharing.

There are human foods that are ok for dogs to eat in moderation, but it’s usually best to stick to whole foods, like carrots, apples, and all-natural peanut butter, and avoid sweets or salty snacks. It’s always important to research a food before feeding it to a dog, since many foods that are perfectly healthy for us are not ok for our four-legged family members.

The same advice applies to kitties as well. It’s probably ok to give them an occasional healthy human food treat, but a kitty who has an ice cream fetish or a craving for potato chips shouldn’t be indulged.

We’ve cut back on Chilly’s human food treats, although we’re hoping we won’t have to cut them out completely. He does love the deli slices I use to make my sandwiches and salads.

It’s all About Portion Control

It’s really easy to overfeed dogs, since many of them will just keep right on eating long after they’re full! In order to make sure that we are feeding Chilly just what he needs, we started measuring his food when we feed him in the morning and the evening. This might seem pretty simple, but we know that if we’re just “eye-balling” his portions it would be easy to give him too much.

It’s also way too easy to over feed our kitties, especially if we get into the habit of just keeping their dishes full all the time. For kitties who have a tendency to over eat, it’s a good idea to measure out an appropriate amount of food a couple of times each day, and once they’ve eaten it, don’t give them more!

Treats can be another culprit in doggy weight-gain. I switched Chilly’s training and food cube treats to Zuke’s Tiny Naturals and Skinny Bakes. The Tiny Naturals are great for frequent rewarding since they have less than 1 1/2 calories each.

The Skinny Bakes are available in 2, 5, 10, or 20 calorie varieties. All of Zuke’s treats are grain, wheat, corn, and soy free, and they don’t contain any harsh additives or preservatives. That’s peace of mind for dog parents, but Chilly only cares about the taste! He loves them and has no idea they’re less calories.

Exercise for Pet Weight Loss

Pet exercise needs vary depending on their age and breed. We don’t need to suddenly put our pets on an athlete’s training schedule. We just need to provide them with frequent opportunities for activity. Regular walks are a great way to start. Playing fetch, tug of war, or frisbee are also great ways to get dogs (and dog parents) moving.

Getting cats moving can be a little trickier, but it’s not impossible. A few options that work for cat parents are laser pen lights, cat-nip toys, toys that can be dragged along the floor, and climbing posts or kitty condos.

It has been tough for us to make sure Chilly gets the exercise he needs. During the day it gets so hot here in Florida that he has no interest in staying outside, and, with his shiny black coat, in this heat and humidity it wouldn’t be safe for him anyway! I walk him early, at 7:30am before it gets too hot and then again at 8:00pm. We go to the park on weekends, where he gets a little more playtime and activity. Hopefully once it cools down a bit, we’ll be able to step it up a notch.

We’re going to stick to this diet and exercise plan and see how much weight he loses through July.  He started at 68.8 pounds in April, and we’re aiming for 62-63.

Thankfully, pet weight loss doesn’t have to be traumatic. With a few tweaks to their diets and an appropriate exercise plan, we can keep them trim, happy, and healthy!

This is a sponsored post. However, all opinions and anecdotes are my own, and I never promote any products or brands I don’t believe in. ~Petfully yours, Kristen

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Kristen Levine is a nationally acclaimed pet expert, influencer, and Fear Free Certified® Professional with over 30 years of experience in the industry. She's helped millions of pet parents provide the best care at every stage of their pet’s life.

Her blog, Pet Living with Kristen Levine has been featured in Pop Sugar, Good Housekeeping, New York Times, USA Today, and more.

She's also the founder of FWV Fetching, the first marketing agency exclusively serving pet and animal health companies.

Her early work with the SPCA led her to a lifelong career in the pet industry, advocating for pet adoption and rescue as well as for pets and their parents here on her blog and in the media.

She’s frequently booked on satellite media tours and national shows, like FOX & Friends, Good Morning America, and Daytime, to talk about pet trends and new products.

Insanely passionate about pets since she was a little girl, Kristen has had more than 30 pets in her lifetime — including dogs, cats, goats, donkeys, a horse, a gerbil, mice, and chickens!

In 2022, she launched to help pet parents keep pet homes clean -- to love more, stress less.

Kristen is married and lives in the mountains of North Carolina with her dog Tulip.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. I agree with portion control and no free feeding. I purchased from the pet food store an adult low calorie food. I have measured out my cat’s food and divided it in half. Half in the morning half in the evening as he likes to eat. Feeding proper amounts of healthy food will ensure that you and your kitty are happy together for many years to come. After feeding my cat, I get something he might want to play with and then play with him for 5 minutes several times a day to make sure that he is doing enough exercise.

    1. Wow, you are a model cat parent! I wish everyone would take the time to measure their cat’s food and schedule playtime. Your cat is very lucky to have you!

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