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Old 06-01-2010, 08:18 PM   #1  
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Default Pet Weight Loss... tips, ideas, advice, etc.

Here goes:

We have seen them. The cats that are so fat they're practically the real life example of garfield, the dogs whose backs are so flat they're practically a coffee table. Some call them "fat and happy", but the reality is that pet obesity is a huge issue in the world nowadays. Many people simply love their pets and show their love through food. Rarely is obesity something forcibly inflicted upon their pets, but according to "Small Animal Clinical Nutrition", excessive intake of nutrients is considered to be malnutrition. So, it's not simply a simple "oh... he's just a happy fat dog/cat". Technically it's malnutrition, and can have numorous negative effects on the pet, just as a nutrient deficiency and starvation of an animal can.

So. First off. Is your dog/cat/horse/other pet overweight? There are many ways to tell, but one of the easiest is by looking at a simple body scoring chart:
Dogs and Cats-
Farm Animals-

If your pet fits the categories of "overweight" or "obese" or whatever they call it... you need to find a good diet plan!

First off... a visit to the veterinarian is in order. There are many things besides simply an excess of nutrients that could cause weight gain. I recommend this simply as a precaution, because changing diets or increased exercise could cause issues in an animal with a disease or imbalance. However, whether you follow this recommendation or not, proceed with care. Animals aren't made to handle drastic diet changes and extremely increased exercise like humans are.

The second thing one must look at is the diet. Here's a good website that explains some basic information about diet in dogs:
And in dogs:
And if you have farm animals, consult your veterinarian and dietary handbooks. I know little about dietary information on them.

But, no matter what you're feeding, don't ever switch AND decrease at the same time. First, measure exactly what you are currently feeding. If your animal is on a free-fed schedule, take it off and measure approximately what you think is getting eaten on a regular basis. Then, if you're switching over to a new higher fiber food/higher quality food, mix in first 20% of the new food with 80% of the old food. Stay that way for one week. Then continue in 20% increments until you're feeding 100% of the new food. This way your pet's internal systems have been slowly adjusted to the new food.

Then, if you're on the new food (or you stayed on your old food), begin decreasing the amount. By 20% again. However, wait two weeks before decreasing again. Once you reach the amount that is recommended for your dog's size, age, and breed (not weight), stop decreasing the food. If you chose to wait on switching the food, do it now, however, you'll have to make some adjustments to the amount again with the 20% every two weeks rule. In the end, much easier to switch first, decrease afterwards.

Your pets may act like their starving. But, unless they lose more than 5% of their body weight in the first two weeks, he/she'll learn.

NO TREATS. If you feel you must give your pet something extra, green beans are excellent for dogs. Full of fiber, they fill the dog up. And an added plus, most dogs love them. Avoid prepackaged treats at this time. Avoid table scraps as well.

Mealtimes should be scheduled events. If your pet does not eat its food within thirty minutes of you setting it out, or doesn't finish, pick it up and either throw it out (if wet food) or put it away to use with the next meal (don't add it to the former amount, simply have this plus a little more be the amount needed). The dog will either learn that he'll have to eat at this time, or, it could be like people, that the dog/cat would simply eat because it had nothing better to do. (this won't work as well with farm animals).

Third tip. EXERCISE. Now, if your dog/cat has led a primarily sedentary lifestyle, which is to be expected if he/she is overweight/obese, do NOT begin on a suddenly extreme exercise routine. Not only could it unnecessarily tire out your pet, but your pet has a much higher likelihood of injury, and it is, for the most part, innefective.

Cats and dogs have a slightly different routine in the following two paragraphs:

A much safer and more effective route is to slowly build your dog up the way you did their food. For the first week, either begin walking for ten minutes at a brisk walk outside, or add ten minutes of a brisk walk to your normal walk. This should be daily, with maybe one day a week skipped if need be. After a week, bump it up to 15 minutes. Then after another week, 20 minutes. After another week, 25 minutes. And after another week, 30 minutes. After this, either begin adding running sessions to it, or get involved in a more strenuous activity. Sprinting is all good and fun, but for most dogs, will do nothing but tire them out, and cause them unnecessary stress. Fetch, as long as your dog isn't sprinting full out (which could possibly cause injury), IS a good way to work your dog without working yourself. If you have a dog with an active mind (border collies, some labs, terriers, etc), consider making everything fun and a job. Once you get down to their optimum amount at breakfast/dinner, begin either hiding their food in various places, or getting a feeder that makes the dog work for their food. Many can be found in various stores.

As for the cats, this can be much tougher, because many cats don't enjoy toys, won't exercise, etc. If you absolutely can't get the cat to move (either by walking, toys, etc), then make it work to get its food. Place it higher, or at the end of some kind of obstacle course. That is... if the pet is food motivated. Cats can be so varied, and hard to work with at times (due to their independent nature), that it might be hard to find something that works with yours.

And with the farm animals/other animals, simply increase their activity. Anything from riding to lunging to walking to getting them moving anyway anyhow.

And the fourth tip is this:
WEIGH YOUR PET. If this pet is more of a larger farm animal type of pet, then you might have a more difficult time with this. And if you can't, you can't. But with dogs and cats, you can weigh them. Your local vet might even be willing to let you come in once every two weeks to use their scale. I know that the one I worked at allowed this, even encouraged it.

Preferably check every two weeks. Not only will this help you stay on track with your dog/cat, but it can also help you know whether or not the animal is losing too much or nothing at all, and you can adjust your feeding and exercise plans accordingly. This is the most important part, because when you own the animal, you can't exactly see the progress as well as when you weigh them consistently.

So... if you have an overweight animal... it'll be hard work... and it'll take a LOT of time... but it can be done. And you'll find yourself and your pet learning more and slimming down.
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Old 06-01-2010, 09:45 PM   #2  
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Serbrider, your advice is great, but the tone comes of a bit lecturey, and seems to assume that most of us don't already know this information. This is a topic that comes up quite frequently here, and has been discussed in great depth. Being new, you of course don't know this (it's very common for new members to passionately want to "spread the good news," not realizing that it's a frequent topic of discussion and the news has already been spread to many). Since there are often new members - revisiting the topic is never a bad thing, but "gifting" everyone with the information doesn't inspire the same level of discussion and contributions from others than asking a question does, or giving one tip and asking for others to give more. Or sharing an experience and asking others to share theirs. It's just a style that seems to bring out the best threads.

People make assumptions about fat pets, and fat people. It's sad really. We adopted a cat that was very small for it's stated age. We were naive and thought the cat was younger than stated (it looked like it wasn't even full-grown, though the previous owner stated it was 2 years old). She practically had to be hand fed and it was very difficult to find a food she would eat (she would beg for frozen strawberry fruit bars though - wonder in hindsight if it was an electrolyte thing). We had her for two years and at her last scheduled "check up" the vet told us she needed to lose a pound or two, because she had suddenly gained a couple pounds (this is a cat I trained to weigh herself on the scale every day, just with praise. I had a very accurate scale and she loved the scale so much that when she heard me get it out and place it on the hall floor, she'd come running at full speed to get on the scale. After I weighed her, she'd "love" the scale by rubbing her face on it,k and I'd have to have hubby call her away, so I could weigh myself).

The vet assumed we'd been overfeeding her (of course, we were fat - so we were obviously making her fat, though why they thought it took two years I don't know).

As it turned out, she had a severe cardiac defect (she was probably born with it). Cats hide illness very well, so well that the vet didn't see it either. The sudden "weight gain" was actually edema - fluid retention from the heart failure. Some of her "cute" habits were actually signs of illness. She was extremely easy to train - her eagerness to please may have been an instinctive reaction to the illness. Not only did I train her to use the scale, we also taught her to walk on a leash, so we could take her for walks. We had to train her to sleep with us at night (she obviously was not allowed on the bed, in her first home). She came when called (it's how we knew she was very sick, when she wouldn't come when called). When she wouldn't even take one lick of strawberry fruit bar, I knew something was VERY wrong.

She was also extremely empathetic to pain, and very disturbed by any out-of-place events. She woke hubby, during a dangerous blood sugar drop. Hubby was going to yell at the cat until he realized his hands were shaking. She woke us when the ambulance came - to the neighbor's house, and whenever our upstairs neighbors' babies would cry - it took us a while to realize that the upstairs neighbor even had a baby, or what the cat was warning us of, because the cat would look at a spot on the ceiling (where the baby was, we learned) and start crying (we only figured it out, by hearing an older cousin visit and we actually heard the two year old child fall/thump/cry, before the cat looked up at the spot and started crying. In talking with the neighbors we realized she was doing the same with the infant, because the part of the ceiling she would look and cry at was where the crib was). She also "knew" what part of my body was hurting, and would lie on it, as my living heating (and massage) pad. "Massage" because she'd not only purr, she'd "knead" the spot.

She also sat up like a human. Her favorite spot was my recliner, with one paw on the arm rest, and both hind paws in front of her - a position that would relieve the pressure and drain fluid accumulating in the lungs and around the heart (a fact we learned after her sudden and very traumatic death).

I felt a lot of guilt over KiKi's death, because we, and the vet misread the symptoms, I suspect because of our weight. Fat pet owners, of course overfeed their cats. It was so "obvious" that I even believed it. I think it's part of the reason that we adopted a fat cat - a cat we thought we could "help."

Which lead to my best advice - not to think it's any easier or even more straight-forward to get weight off a pet than a human. We made this mistake. We've never had fat animals (as much out of luck as knowledge, though we always used high-quality pet foods and exercise inducements). We adopted a very fat cat, because we fell in love and thought we could help, especially after we heard that not one single prospective adoptive family had asked to see her in the four or five months she'd been at the shelter. Also, because she doesn't like other animals, she was never allowed out for group social time, so she got less out-of-cage time than any of the other animals.

I don't regret adopting her, but I do regret thinking it would be easy. To be honest, I made the same mistake with the cat, as I did with myself - forgetting the physiological components.

By researching foods very carefully, and a lot of experimentation, we've been able to get about three pounds off of her. A good start, but she needs to get more off. She probably should weight about 14 to 15 lbs (she is an extrememly tall and long cat - might be some Main Coone in her, even though she's a short-hair).

The less we feed her, the less she moves, and the fewer hours she is conscious. The vet says this is not unusual, and we may always struggle to get her to a healthy weight. As with humans, it's easier to prevent weight gain than to correct it. We're working with the vet, but our budget does prevent us from trying some of the more expensive treatments (which the vet says may not work any better than what we're doing).

Whoever had her before, must have fed her alot of carbohydrates (especially potatoes), because she'll not only beg for them, she'll resort to sneak attack raids to get them. Hubby and I are both on carb-conscious diet, so french fries and chips only come into the house when we have friends over (usually brought by the friends either for the party potluck or for their own use) - as we often have BYO parties (where the BYO applies to not just beverages, but foods as well, since everyone knows we're dieting).

Our kitty has aquired the nickname "potato" from friends who discovered that she not only loves potatoes, she looks a baked one (including a white sour cream belly - as she often lays on her back as many obese kitties do).

We've warned friends not to slip her fries or chips (but some do, because they think it's cute, not so much in my presence anymore because I'll lecture them), or she'll steal them. She's gotten pretty crafty at it - I've never seen her run very fast unless a dog or a potato is involved (though in opposite directions - though she apparently does not recognize pugs as dogs. She'll run from the tiniest chihuahua, but she'll just sit and stare at the neighbor's pug with head cocked). The new neighbor has a tiny chihuahua and a slightly bigger pomeranian - apparently the pomeranian also wasn't dog-like enough to frighten our cat, until she smelled him nose to nose, through the screen. Then she arched and hissed (apparently realizing that yes, he was indeed a dog), and ran for the bedroom as fast as her legs could carry her.

So does anyone else have stories of fat critters, and what worked and what didn't in getting them healthier and more active.

Last edited by kaplods; 06-01-2010 at 11:48 PM.
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Old 06-01-2010, 10:04 PM   #3  
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I agree very much... and I'm sorry you had to go through that with your cat. Not fun. Which is why one of my first tips (actually my first) is to get a vet check to rule out any medical reasons for being overweight.

I'm so sorry this came out as "preachy" or "lectury". Not at all my intention.

I was just trying to get all of the info in one place for people... instead of mixed up into multiple threads. I should have put at the end "feel free to add your own tips, ideas, and advice as well!" Because that's what I wanted this to be... a sharing type of thing as well as just a particular place to have all of this info.

so yeah... everybody... please do share!

Last edited by Serbrider; 06-01-2010 at 10:10 PM.
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Old 07-01-2010, 12:19 PM   #4  
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Our dog Jester is a Tibetan Spaniel. He is NOT fat. He's big-bone-ded.

The normal weight for that breed is between 9-15 pounds... Jester is 16 pounds. But people ALWAYS comment "what a fat little dog!" ... LOL, that's when we're quick to say "He's just BIG Bone-DED!" and when we show them how much food we DON'T give him, they're always surprised.
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