Sometimes, the problem is obvious.
I spend a significant part of each appointment discussing body weight and feeding with owners. Whether it’s part of our food-centric Midwestern culture and climate, or a changed perspective on what a’healthy’ weight is, obesity in our pets is a dyed-in-the-wool killer. Years of life are sacrificed by way of ‘just a few treats.’ Believing that food is love is a dangerous misunderstanding.
I’ll call this as I see it. We are overfeeding our pets. We, as caretakers, are responsible for how much food a pet has access to, and we are failing them. We are killing them with food.
Here’s what you need to do: take a serious, honest look at your pets. Compare their body shape to the shapes and proportions that you see in the body condition scoring below. There’s an added image demonstrating how to actually put your hands on your pet to see if there’s too much fat cover over the ribcage. It’s an easy thing to do. Take a moment to touch your pets right now.
The question I nearly always get after owners blame other family members for overfeeding is, “Well, how much SHOULD he weigh?” Don’t get hung up on a number. Don’t even set a specific number for a goal. Use those body condition charts and the rib palpation test to get a healthy body condition. When you can feel the ribs, the weight’s going to be close to perfect. These two pets are good examples.
Just one quick note on starting a diet plan: consult your veterinarian for a specific strategy. If you cut calories too quickly or severely, you can make your pet seriously sick. Cats, especially, can have fatal consequences from a sudden big drop in their calorie intake. Slow, gradual weight loss until a good body condition is observed is the safe way to go about it. We can accomplish that with changes to the current diet, weight loss foods, exercise, and some other tips. Having the support of the veterinary team will make your job much easier at home. We’d love to help you!
Be honest with yourself about your pet’s weight. It can be the difference between a longer, healthier life and losing years of companionship.
(I’d like to give a special thank-you to my readers for forwarding the picture of using hands to check body condition! Great stuff!)