Common Mistakes Made by Pet Owners (Part 1)
- Feeding their pets by free choice (keeping the food bowl full).
The issue is that most cats and dogs will over eat and take in more calories than they need which can cause obesity, diabetes, arthritis, the need for chronic pain meds, liver disease, kidney disease, heart disease, urinary disease, and increased risk of complications under anesthesia. In addition to the obvious negative effects to the health of their pets, free feeding wastes money…a lot of money. Quality pet food is expensive! It is easy to calculate that free feeding wastes thousands of dollars and all you get for that money is a less healthy pet whose life expectancy is shortened by up to 2.5 years.
Ok, let’s specifically talk cats for a minute. Cats should ideally eat at least 6 controlled calorie meals a day and while one option to allowing small frequent meals is free choice feeding, very few cats can eat free choice and maintain a healthy weight. The fact is if your female cat is over 7-10 lbs. and your male cat is over 9-12 lbs. they are overweight and at risk! Cats struggle when offered food all day because they will frequently eat when they are bored even if they are not hungry. It is important to know that following feeding guidelines on the bag/can of food is for the average pet and every pet has their own metabolic rate and should be fed on an individual basis. Therefore, it is important to consult your veterinarian and ask them how many calories your pet needs per day to be a healthy weight.
- Not controlling how much your kitten/puppy eats after they are spayed/neutered.
A puppy or kitten’s metabolic rate is decreased 24-35% after they have been spayed/neutered and therefore it is important to start portion control as soon as the growth rate starts to slow down. Take the time to consult your veterinarian on how much to feed your kitten/puppy to have them gain weight at a healthy rate. Healthy weight gain in kittens/puppies is important because it is much easier to prevent obesity than reverse it, especially in cats. Let’s develop healthy eating/ feeding habits early because those pudgy youngsters are more prone to become at risk and overweight/obese as an adult.
- Not listening to their veterinarian about their pet being overweight/obese.
Telling the pet parent that their beloved pet is overweight/obese is a difficult discussion for the veterinarian to have with their clients and they don’t take that conversation lightly. Many pet parents can take offense and think that they are being bad pet owners; or, they simply do not believe that their pet is overweight. If I could tell you how many times I have heard “he’s big boned or that’s mostly hair or I like her chubby, she is sooo cute don’t you think?” Trust me, your veterinarians key motivation is your pets’ health. No judgement is involved and if your veterinarian says your pet is overweight, believe them and work with them to help your pet find a healthy weight. To your veterinarian who is aware of the serious risks your pet faces, there is nothing cute about your fat pet. There are many medical conditions that are associated with obesity: diabetes, arthritis, decreased quality of life, decreased life expectancy up to 2.5 years, kidney disease, urinary disease, heart disease, increased risk under anesthesia, and more. What is it worth to have your beloved pet up to 2.5 years longer?