The most important health-related problem I see every day with our pets is that the vast majority are overweight. A landmark study showed that lean pets live longer, up to 1.8 years longer for Labrador retrievers. Not only will we have our pets with us to enjoy longer, but when aging problems, such as heart failure, kidney failure and arthritis develop, they occur 2.8 years later in life for lean pets.
I know how hard it is to withhold extra food and treats from the pets we love. But love is not food. It is very important to feed your pets a measured amount of food every day, so that you know how much they are getting and how much you need to increase or decrease in order to maintain a perfect weight. Regardless of the breed, age, or size of the pet, the ideal weight is achieved when you can feel the ribs, but not see them. If it feels like a layer of Jello® over the ribs, they’re too heavy. It is always safe to reduce their ration by 25%. If no weight comes off in one month, reduce it another 25% until you start to see results.
Have one or two feeding periods during the day, no more than 30 minutes long. Whatever is not eaten during this period should be put away. Do not leave food out all day (this is especially true for cats). Keep the diet simple by feeding only one brand or type of cat or dog food. Avoid canned food; it is more expensive and although many pets like canned food, they don’t need it. Keep plenty of fresh water available all day. Remember, too, that pets prefer bottled or filtered water, just like we do.
Because we love our pets, we tend to want to give them table scraps and treats. Realize that nearly all the highly-processed treats that we buy in stores undoubtedly have ingredients from China and other countries in them. Instead of these packaged treats, give your dogs fruits and vegetables, like apples, carrots, string beans, green peppers, etc. These are far more nutritious treats and less fattening, too. Table scraps are nearly always high in fat, and we should never get into the habit of feeding pets from the table. Before you know it, they have US trained!