It can be hard for dog or cat owners to admit when their pet is overweight, but it’s always better to face facts and try to take action. Today, both dogs and cats are heavier than ever before. It’s estimated that 45% of dogs and 57% of cats in the US are either overweight or obese (Association for Pet Obesity Prevention). Flickr: Big Fat Cat The main problem with letting an animal stay bigger than it should be is that overweight dogs and cats are more likely than their in-shape counterparts to suffer from a slew of health problems, such as diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, lung disorders, high blood pressure, and immune dysfunction. A dog or a cat at a healthy weight, however, is likely to live at least two years longer than if it were overweight, according to the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. So what can you do to help your pet live a healthier and longer life? Here are some easy steps to take! It’s important firstly to know what you’re working towards. You can ask your vet about your dog or cat’s ideal weight. It might also be a good idea to have the vet screen for other conditions that have weight gain as one of their symptoms, such as diabetes, Cushing’s Disease, or hypothyroidism. Your biggest enemy while trying to help your pet lose weight is free choice feeding, or leaving food freely available. Like humans, dogs or cats will eat when bored, and this can lead to obesity faster than anything. Ideally, your pet should be fed small portions two to four times a day. If your schedule can’t accommodate this, then look for timed automatic feeders that can portion out the right amount at certain times of day. It’s also important to make sure that your cat or dog is getting quality food. In this situation, you should look for something higher than average in protein and lower than average in fat and carbohydrates. Just as you would do if trying to lose weight, the most important thing is to make sure your pet gets plenty of exercise, so try taking your dog for a walk, a run, or a swim! For a cat, try using a laser pointer, a feather wand, or another toy that interests your cat, and see if you can get them to engage. Finally, remain consistent in your goal, and again, just as you would when trying to lose weight yourself, don’t sabotage your dog or cat by giving them too many snacks. The final thing to remember is that when your dog or cat reaches their new goal weight is that they need to stay active in order to not put the weight back on, but that the amount that you’ve been feeding them may have to be increased slightly so that they don’t continue losing weight! So know what your goal weight is, watch what your dog or cat eats, and have fun playing with your pet and promoting a healthy and happy lifestyle!