Almost weekly a new dieting or nutrition fad circulates online, as people look for new and interesting ways to lose weight or improve their health.
The same can be true of pets, as families look for ways to make them healthier or help them lose weight. But as with humans, sometimes simple nutrition is a key starting point, according to Ron Turk, office manager at Lyndhurst Animal Hospital in Lyndhurst, and Ted Berr, owner of A Dog’s Life in Chester Township.
“Nutrition is about good-quality food that is going to help (animals) down the road from possible (health) problems that could arise from not-quality food,” Turk said. “What goes into your body is tied to how it reacts and works (through the food), and it’s the same for pets.”
Berr said as a start, owners should read the ingredient list on pet foods.
“You want to see many types of meat on the contents list, and they need to be listed before the vegetables, like corn,” he said.
Turk said other factors are also involved with helping pets lose weight. Owners should start by identifying whether eating problems, health issues or lack of physical stimulation contribute to high weights.
“The first thing (an owner) needs to do is monitor the amount of food that you’re giving them,” Turk said. “When you do that, it should be a standardized measuring cup. If you’re not using a measuring up, you don’t really know how much food you’re actually giving them.”
Turk said owners should decrease the amount of food or calories their pet is consuming, especially if they aren’t getting a lot of exercise. When beginning a diet, he recommends owners do not put pets on a “crash diet,” unless it’s medically necessary.
“It doesn’t have to be an immediate weight loss, it can be gradual,” he said. “The first problem in obesity is not the food exactly. It’s all of the extras. Cutting back on the food doesn’t make sense if the pet is still getting a ton of treats or table snacks.”
Berr said many dogs aren’t necessarily overeating, but their owners are “over-treating” them.
“People love giving their pets treats,” he said. “If someone is prone to over-treating their pet, there are low-calorie treats available for substitution. You also should record who is feeding the pet and how much. You get these families where everyone has a hand in the feeding of the pets, and that needs to be regulated to stop people from double treating or feeding their pets too much.”
When considering giving a pet a nutritional supplement, Berr and Turk both said owners should know their pet and where they are health-wise first.
“It’s like knowing your children,” Berr said. “You test to see what is going on health-wise and when you learn that, there are extremely valuable supplements for almost any condition.”