For pet owners with an overweight pet companion, it can be difficult to treat a pet and keep it in excellent health.

However, with moderation and persistence, owners can ensure that their pet reaches a healthy weight without discomfort.

Dr. Lori Teller, associate professor at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedicine, says healthy eating is an essential part of successful weight loss.

Treats, whether specifically for pets or table food, should make up no more than 10% of an animal’s diet, and when given, the calories of a treat should be included in a pet’s total daily intake, she said.

“Healthy goodies can be green beans, baby carrots, celery sticks, or apple slices,” Teller said. “In addition to food, there are other ways to treat pets. Many pets can be content with a little attention, whether it’s a fetch game, a catnip toy, or a scratching their chin.

Veterinarians can also make recommendations about healthy treatment options.

Owners with an overweight pet should also contact their veterinarian to devise a weight loss plan that is best for their pet. Typically, Teller says that reducing body mass gradually is safest.

“Weight loss should be gradual. Pets should be weighed monthly to see if they’re losing weight appropriately, ”Teller said. “Losing weight quickly can lead to problems such as liver disease and nutritional disorders, and losing weight too slowly prolongs the adverse effects of obesity on pet health.”

Exercise can also be a healthy tool in promoting weight loss. For dogs, this can include walking, swimming, Frisbee, or fetching.

If a dog is resistant to exercise, Teller recommends starting slowly. Walks in new areas can help stimulate your dog spiritually in new ways, and as a result, your dog may not even realize he is exercising.

Additionally, if your dog is reluctant to exercise, Teller recommends ruling out any underlying health problems that can make training painful for him.

“Dogs that are extremely overweight or obese may have an orthopedic problem, such as a ruptured cruciate ligament or herniated disc, that causes pain or discomfort while exercising,” she said. “Rule out or treat underlying medical problems and talk to your veterinarian about an appropriate exercise plan. Some dogs may benefit from a few physical therapy sessions for better mobility. “

Cats and other inaccessible pets can also benefit from exercise. Cats can be encouraged to move around using certain toys, such as a laser pointer. According to Teller, owners can place the cat food in a place they will have to work to get it, such as a tall scratching post.

“It is possible to train a cat to walk on a leash and take walks,” she said. “This has to be done slowly over time, but there are many owners who do the job.”

Just as people trying to lose weight are tempted by snacks, pets can become impatient between meals. Teller recommends dividing a pet’s food into several meals throughout the day – between two and four – and providing food regularly to reduce hunger.

“Another way owners can help their pets is by using puzzle toys to feed the pet’s entire daily feed supply,” Teller said. “It’s stimulating both mentally and physically. The pet needs to figure out how to get the food out of the toy. This also means that the pet eats more slowly and stays full longer. “

While saying no to a begging pet can be difficult, the health of a loved one is well worth the discipline.

“Remember, animals that maintain a healthy weight throughout their lifetime can live two years longer than an overweight pet,” Teller said. “These two years are well worth the effort of keeping your pet at a healthy weight.”

Pet Talk is a service provided by the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedicine at Texas A&M University. Stories can be found on the Pet Talk website. Suggestions for future topics can be directed to [email protected]. By staff at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedicine