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Fighting Pet Obesity with Nutrition

By Colleen Williams
October 6, 2017 • 2 min. read
fat labrador dog on the floor

Many dogs and cats naturally develop a “live to eat” mentality rather than an “eat to live” mentality. What this means is that you have to control the amount of food that you are feeding your pet. Left to their own devices, many pets will eat far more calories in a day than is healthy for them. The importance of the pet parent’s role here cannot be overstated, and that was the driving force behind writing The Ultimate Pet Health Guide: Breakthrough Nutrition and Integrative Care for Dogs and Cats, a book that offers guidance to pet parents asking: “what should I feed my pet?”

How much you should feed your pet is always going to be dictated by their activity level, genetics, and the type or quality of food that you are feeding. Finding the right amount of calories to feed your pet based on all three of these factors is not something to guess at; consulting a veterinarian or using published guidelines will steer you in the right direction.

A note to pet parents of overweight cats:

Always consult a veterinarian before changing your cat’s diet. If you reduce their weight too quickly you can put them into liver failure. For this reason, you should always have a veterinarian’s guidance when making changes to their diet.

To pet parents of overweight dogs:

If you are a dog owner and don’t want to wait until your veterinarian can see you, it is perfectly fine to begin a food-reduction regimen on your own. You can start by reducing your dog’s food by 15-20% and then closely monitoring their weight. You’ll want to have a reliable scale so that you are getting accurate weights on your dog.

Some dogs will become very agitated if you suddenly start to give them less food—luckily for you, there’s a simple way to trick them into not noticing. To start, take a slightly reduced amount of their regular food and add raw veggies— like carrots, broccoli, and green beans—to the food. You can add up to twice the volume of the food you took out. This means that they will still be getting the same or more volume of food but without all the calories. Veggies can be cooked or raw—whatever they will eat!

Remember, any serious dietary changes should always take place under the supervision of a veterinarian. Even though tools like a body index chart can be helpful when used at home, the best and most accurate answers always come from a veterinarian. If you suspect that your dog or cat is clinically obese (above a 7 on the body index chart), you should bring them to a veterinarian.

Content provided by Dr. Gary Richter, MS, DVM, a holistic veterinarian and scientist. Dr. Richter helps dog and cat owners to navigate treatment options and separate the fact from the fiction, approaching veterinary science as integrative health care. Find out more on his website,, or check out his book, The Ultimate Pet Health Guide: Breakthrough Nutrition and Integrative Care for Dogs and Cats.

colleen williams
By Colleen Williams

Over the past decade, Colleen has written about health, wellness, beauty, and even pets for The New York Times, The Cut, Refinery29, xoVain, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, and Seattle Met Magazine, as well as many beauty brands. She has a BFA in Art History from the University of New Mexico and an AAS in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design in New York.

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