When the days are hot, our pets tend to stay inside more and get less exercise. This can result in weight gain. Approximately 54 percent of dogs and cats in the United States are overweight.
Many pets gain weight for the same reasons people do: poor diet and lack of exercise. And, just like humans, pets can suffer from health problems such as heart disease, liver disease, arthritis and diabetes when they are overweight.
If the pounds have packed on this summer, here are some steps to help pets shed some weight.
Choosing higher-quality foods will decrease the empty calories a pet takes in. Avoid foods that feature corn, corn meal or wheat as the first or second ingredient, and instead choose foods with chicken or turkey listed first. These foods have more protein for an active, healthy lifestyle.
Portion control is also important. Just a slight decrease in the amount of food a pet consumes will result in fewer calories consumed and weight loss.
Decreasing the number of treats each day and opting for other forms of positive reinforcement, such as praise or petting, will help with weight loss. Many prepackaged dog treats have very little nutritional value for pets and are packed with extra calories. Switching to healthful treats, such as slices of apple, or green beans, will help with weight control, while still providing a food treat.
It is not wise to exercise a dog in the heat of summer, so limit exercise to early morning or late evening until the temperature starts to drop. Throwing the ball in the yard and even adding in small walks or a short jog a day can make a difference, but again, not during the hottest parts of the day. For felines, engage the cat in play with toys to get him off the sofa and moving around. Exercising pets also leads to more exercise for owners, so it is a win-win situation.
Before making any drastic changes, talk to the vet. Sometimes weight gain can be a sign of an underlying problem. A vet can evaluate the pet’s overall health and make recommendations for the best foods and the right amount of exercise for the pet’s particular needs.
When better nutrition, fewer calories and more exercise are incorporated into a pet’s daily schedule, the weight will come off and you will have a happier, healthier pet.
SPCA FUNDRAISER: On Wednesdays in September, participating Zea restaurants will donate 20 percent when patrons mention the Louisiana SPCA. Participating Zea locations include Kenner, Clearview, Harahan, Harvey, Slidell and Covington. For information, visit zearestaurants.com.
ADOPTION EVENT: Animal Rescue New Orleans will hold an adoption event from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, at Petco, 3520 Veterans Memorial Blvd, Metairie. For information, email email@example.com.
ADOPTION EVENT: The Jefferson SPCA will hold an adoption event from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, at Jefferson Feed Uptown, 6047 Magazine St., New Orleans. For information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
ADOPTION EVENT: The Louisiana SPCA will hold an adoption event from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, at PetSmart, 2900 S. Claiborne Ave. For information, call (504) 368-5191 or visit la-spca.org/offsite.
CRITTER CINEMA: A Critter Cinema event for children ages 5 to 10 will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 12, at the Louisiana SPCA, 1700 Mardi Gras Blvd., New Orleans. Animal-loving, pizza-eating, movie-watching kids will play with puppies and kittens and enjoy a G-rated critter movie, crafts, games and more. Participants are invited to bring a sleeping bag, pillow and pajamas.
PET HEALTH DISCOUNTS: The Sula Foundation will offer $10 dog vaccinations and free nonsurgical neutering from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 13, at the Nola Bark Market, 3041 N. Rampart St., New Orleans. For information, call (504) 949-1525.
PUPPY PLAY SOCIAL: The Louisiana SPCA will hold a Puppy Play Social from 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 15, in the resource room at the SPCA, 1700 Mardi Gras Blvd., New Orleans. Socials will include open play with other puppies and their people under the supervision of a Louisiana SPCA trainer. No registration needed; walk-ins are welcome. For information, visit la-spca.org/grouptraining.
LOST OR FOUND PETS: In Orleans Parish, you can send a photo, description of your pet, date lost/found and your contact information to email@example.com.
Traci D. Howerton is social media editor of Animal Rescue New Orleans, a nonprofit, volunteer-based, no-kill shelter. Contact ARNO at firstname.lastname@example.org, www.animalrescueneworleans.org or call its recorded information line at (504) 571-1900.