Pet owners may gush over their “adorably tubby” pet, but overweight pets are at an increased risk for developing arthritis, diabetes, kidney and heart disease, high blood pressure and many forms of cancer.  According to recent veterinary surveys, more than half of our nation’s dogs and cats–almost eighty million pets–are overweight.  So while we may think that our oversized pets are sort of cute, we would do well to help them achieve and maintain healthy weights.

Tips for Helping Overweight Pets

1. Measure meals and remove excess food. One of the best ways to help your pet maintain a healthy weight is to ensure that you are feeding them the recommended amount of food, and that you remove any excess food your pet leaves behind. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention points out that a mere ten extra kibbles of food each day can add up to one extra pound of weight a year.

2. Use quality treats strategically.  Low-calorie, no-sugar treats can be well-received and even beneficial to your pet’s health, if they are given in small quantities.  If you give your pet a treat every time they look at you adorably, you may find yourself running out of treats quite quickly.  Instead, break treats up into small pieces and give them to your pet because he’s earned it with his good behavior.

3. Exercise daily with your pet. One of the wonderful human health benefits of pet ownership is the daily exercise that normally comes with it.  Whether you take a walk with your dog every day or play with your cat with laser pointers, strings or other toys for fifteen minutes or so, you are both getting needed exercise.

4. Consider healthful supplements. Pets, like people, benefit from daily omega-3 fatty acid supplements as they are full of antioxidants that can help prevent and treat many diseases.  Some studies have also indicated that l-carnitine can aid in weight loss.

5. Reduce carbohydrate intake. Many pet foods are high in carbohydrates, which few pets actually need.  Try instead low- or no-grain foods that contain a protein source as the first ingredient.

In some cases, certain pets need very specific diets in order to cope with health conditions.  It is always best to check with your veterinarian prior to making a huge change in your pet’s diet, but do remember that your pet does depend upon you for their good health.