The following was written by Robin, one of our technicians.
Since working with Dr Nelson, I have developed an interest in weight management in pets and educating owners with feeding suggestions. Previously, I had never associated being overweight with decreased longevity or increased health issues. But I've seen over and over again how planned weight loss has so many benefits. We're asked daily questions about diet and food. Some of the more common questions are "Why does my pet gain weight if I only feed it twice a day?" "What type of food should I feed?" Hopefully I can answer some of those for you.
As with humans, the time you take to care about your pet's nutrition can extend their lifespan. We want to reward our pets in a positive manner and offer variety at the same time. We cook, we open multiple cans, add table food, often unwittingly adding calories and preservatives. This next statement may hurt: animals are.....ANIMALS. We try to humanize our pets, believing they have specific tastes, or that they tire easily of a particular flavor. By reassessing our relationship with our pets and how we feed them, we may actually increase our time together.
It is suggested that pets should be fed twice daily (every 12 hours) with the amount based on the size of the pet, not what is suggested on the side of the food bag. If your pet is chunky or doesn't feed everything in their bowl, chances are they are being fed too much. You must factor in the amount of treats you pet receives in a day. Most households are always on the go, with many people "treating" the pet each day. There should always be "house rules". Dr Nelson has a great suggestion. Have one person in the house be the main person responsible for feeding. Allocate an amount of treats that can be given throughout the day. When that amount of food is gone, feeding stops. We have measuring cups available in the clinic and can help you determine how much food is right for your pet. Remember that most treats can be broken in to multiple pieces. Truth be told, pets don't care about the size of the treat, but the simple fact that they are getting one. Vegetables such as green beans, cucumbers and carrots are great alternatives to treats. Ice cubes are great to crunch in the summer, and plain rice cakes are low cal treats. General rule of thumb-give your pet 15 minutes to eat their meal, and if they walk away, the food is taken up and the pet is not fed again until the allotted time in the evening. Pets catch on quickly and learn to eat when their bowl is put down. Twice daily regular feedings help in digestion and house breaking and basic discipline.
It basically comes down to this-if you want your pet to live a long life, you must control what and how much you are feeding them.
You are welcome to a measuring cup, to set up an appointment for a weight discussion, or just stop in and weigh your pet. It is always rewarding to see the change in your pets' mobility and stamina once they aren't carrying around so much weight. Help your pet be in the best shape possible and you'll be rewarded with a long and fulfilling relationship with them.