After sitting down at the dinner table, you feel a cold nose nudging your knee. You look down and see the soulful brown eyes of your chubby pooch, begging for one little bite of your steak. Unable to refuse, you slip her a piece of meat, which she delightedly scarfs down. That small bite is gone in a split second, and your pup resumes her begging—after all, she knows how to push your buttons now. Her sad look tugs at your heartstrings, and you end up giving her what’s left on your plate. She gulps it down, lets out a contented belch, and saunters over to her bed to curl up for a nap before it’s time for a bedtime snack.

Is this a common occurrence in your home? For many pet owners, turning away from their pet’s begging gaze without giving in is simply too difficult. All too often, food equals love and affection, but those extra calories aren’t doing your pet any favors—in fact, they’re harming her body. Stay strong, and help your furry friend maintain a healthy weight by following these five tips. 

#1: Determine your pet’s body condition score

Without knowing where your pet lies in terms of a healthy body weight, determining how to reach an ideal weight is difficult. Each breed’s ideal weight varies, and every pet is a unique individual, so your pet will not fall into a mold. For example, all male Labrador retrievers do not weigh exactly 90 pounds—each breed varies widely, based on body structure. 

Rather than basing your pet’s health on the number on the scale, use a different number to determine her ideal weight—a body condition score. A pet with an ideal body condition should have a visible waist, a tucked abdomen, and palpable ribs under a slight fat layer. If you can’t feel your pet’s ribs, it’s time she loses a little weight. 

#2: Calculate your pet’s daily calorie requirements

To help your pet reach her ideal body condition, you need to know how many calories she requires for maintenance, and to lose weight. If your pet is already at a healthy weight, use this calculation to determine her daily allotment:

  • Take your pet’s weight in pounds
  • Divide her weight in pounds by 2.2 to get her weight in kilograms
  • Multiply her weight in kilograms by 30, then add 70 to reach her resting energy requirement (RER)
  • Multiply your pet’s RER by factors to estimate her daily energy needs 

For example, most adult neutered pets require a factor of 1.6 for their energy needs, so you would multiply your pet’s RER by 1.6 to maintain her current weight. If she needs to lose weight, her RER would be multiplied by a factor of one for her daily calorie intake. After beginning a diet regimen, weigh your pet once per month to monitor her progress and recalculate her RER. Keep in mind that cats’ needs differ from dogs’, so calculate the appropriate calories for each species. 

#3: Ensure your pet’s treats comprise no more than 10% of her daily calories

While it’s tempting to show your furry friend how much you love her by sharing special snacks throughout the day, treats—including small ones—add up quickly, especially processed treats high in sugar, fat, and calories. Limit your pet’s treat intake to no more than 10% of her daily calorie allotment to avoid weight gain. Show your pet your affection by going for an extra walk, or spending more playtime with her instead. 

#4: Portion your pet’s food correctly

Evaluate yourself honestly—do you measure your pet’s food accurately with a measuring cup, or do you use another item to scoop out kibble? Many pet owners do not use a proper measuring cup when portioning out their pet’s food, which can lead to inadvertent weight gain. After calculating your pet’s daily calorie ration, calculate how many cups she needs each day, and divide that number into meals.  

#5: Schedule a nutritional consult with the Mill Creek Animal Hospital team

Losing weight and keeping it off is an ongoing struggle for pets and people alike. If you are taking every step to help your furry friend reach her ideal weight, but you’re still struggling, call us to schedule a nutritional consultation. Pets commonly suffer from metabolic disease or other medical conditions that can make losing weight difficult, despite reduced calories and increased exercise. Some pets also need the extra help that prescription weight-loss diets offer. 

Is your pooch still pudgy, or your cat still larger than your lap, despite your best efforts? Schedule an appointment to get to the bottom of your pet’s weight-loss woes.