We want to keep our pets in the family for as long as possible. That’s why maintaining your pet’s health is critical in helping them live long, happy lives. Yet, today over 50% of pets in the United States are clinically obese. Extra weight can lead to conditions like diabetes, heart disease and even cancer for our dogs and cats. This is a scary reality that many pet parents face, but it’s an issue that we can work together to solve.

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Your next visit is the perfect chance to ask about your pet’s weight.

We checked in with Dr. Katy Nelson, Freshpet friend and Veterinarian, to help put together some advice on managing your pet’s weight and how Freshpet recipes can help! Here’s what she had to say:

Why Maintaining a Healthy Weight is Important for Our Little Ones

Sometimes, we think of pudgy pups and kitties as cute, fluffy, or even big boned. But the reality of the situation is that that extra weight can really do damage to their general health. When our pet are overweight, they’re lugging around extra pounds that create a sedentary lifestyle, or put extra strain on their heart and joints. To avoid dangerous conditions like diabetes, it is important to keep their weight in check.

How To Determine if Your Pet is Overweight

If you suspect your pet is overweight, I highly recommend scheduling an initial appointment with a veterinarian to analyze your pet’s body weight. However, there are a few simple tests that you can use at home to see if a check-up is necessary.

One quick test is to put your hands around your dog or cat’s rib cage. When pressing down gently, you should be able to feel his or her ribs. If you have to put a significant amount of effort and really dig in to feel the rib cage, he or she may be carrying excess weight. Another commonly used test is to look at your pet’s chest –  if his chest is not deeper than his belly, he may be overweight.

Feeling for your pet's ribs is a great weigh to determine if there's excess weight.
Feeling for your pet’s ribs is a great weigh to determine if there’s excess weight.

How Freshpet Can Help Avoid Obesity

One of the first things to consider when helping your pet avoid weight gain is his or her diet. Foods high in carbohydrates can be difficult for pets to digest and cause excess weight gain. Freshpet’s refrigerated recipes are great for weight loss or prevention because they are low in carbs, high in meat content and do not contain simple carbohydrates like corn or white rice. Many of Vital Slice and Serve Rolls or Complete Meals are grain-free, and Freshpet Select Slice and Serve Rolls are made with complex carbs like brown rice, which is high in fiber and helps our loved ones feel fuller, longer.

Obesity in our pets is not always due to food content, but rather food quantity. As pet parents, it is our responsibility to effectively exercise portion control when feeding our furry ones. Freshpet rolls have portion measurements that are easy to use, thus helping follow Feeding Guidelines and manage portion sizes.

How You Can Help Your Pet Lose Weight

The first step to help your pet lose weight is to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian. Typically, the vet will do a general examination and possibly blood work to rule out any underlying health issue leading to excess weight. Each cat or dog is different, and your veterinarian can help identify the specific causes, or resulting conditions, that may be resulting in his or her obesity.

When meeting with your veterinarian, be sure to discuss suggested changes to your pet’s diet, as well as calorie counting. The goal should be to establish your little one’s ideal weight, then work backwards from there to chose a target daily caloric intake. It is important to note that simply because the Feeding Guidelines may suggest a certain portion size, doesn’t necessarily mean that is the appropriate amount to feed your loved one. I recommend feeding your pet in accordance with their target weight, as established with your veterinarian, not their current weight. From there, pledge to track the amount of food and calories you give your pets each day. Calories are fairly easy to keep an eye on, as pet foods are required to list calories on the package. On the Freshpet website and all Freshpet packaging, under Guaranteed Analysis, you’ll find the calorie count for their recipes.

With proper feeding and regular exercise, you can help keep your dog or cat healthy and happy for years to come.

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To help us raise awareness for pet obesity, join us in partnership with Dr. Katy Nelson and ResQwalk for the FreshFit Challenge!

For the month of April we’re aiming to walk 200,000 miles for pet obesity and to raise donations for local shelters and rescues across the US. To join, download the ResQwalk mobile app on iTunes or the Google Play store, select a shelter of your choice, and start walking!

The first 1,000 to reach their personal walking goals will receive a $2 off coupon. And all who participate will be entered to win 1 of 3 Freshpet gift packs including food and other goodies. The Challenge ends May 1, 2016. To learn more about the FreshFit Challenge, click here.