(Family Features)–With an estimated 60 percent of cats and 56 percent of dogs in the United States considered overweight or obese, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, maintaining adequate nutrition throughout a pet’s life is a major part of a pet owner’s duties. While it may seem like a simple task, some pet parents struggle to find the balance between proper nutrition and adequate exercise.
To help put your pup or cat on the road to healthy living, consider these tips from Dr. Jennifer Freeman, PetSmart’s resident veterinarian and pet care expert:
Choose the Right Food. Understanding what’s in your pet’s food can help you put into context the type of nutrition your dog or cat is or isn’t consuming. Start by reading the ingredients on the food label and pay special attention to the first three ingredients; take note that they’re typically listed in descending order, meaning the major make-up of the food is listed first. While each animal has its own unique nutritional needs, make sure your pet consumes an adequate amount of protein.
Avoid Table Scraps. One of the first and easiest steps you can take in improving pet nutrition is to avoid feeding table scraps, including cooked bones from poultry, pork and other meals as they can be potentially dangerous to an animal’s digestive tract. Additionally, they can sometimes splinter into shards and cause choking or damage to the esophagus and intestines.
Mix Up the Everyday Meal. To reward your pet for good behavior, an option like Simply Nourish meal toppers, made for both dogs and cats, can be served as a tasty and nutritious complement to regular food. In addition, based on an individual pet’s needs, extra fiber or flavor enhancers might be warranted. Pumpkin puree is a source of fiber that can help with digestion and weight management in pets. If your pet has diarrhea or constipation, or your veterinarian recommends your pet lose a few pounds, try adding pumpkin to its diet.
Practice Healthy Portion Control. Keep in mind your pet’s weight and breed when considering the proper amount of food to provide and consider speaking with your veterinarian to help ensure you’re not overfeeding. Treats can be a good way to reward proper behavior and display affection, but too many tasty morsels can lead to numerous health issues, including obesity, arthritis and diabetes in overweight cats.
Exercise Regularly. All pets need exercise, but consider age, breed and current state of health when determining the extent. Most dogs require at least 30 minutes of exercise each day, achieved through entertaining and interactive physical activities like walking, running, playing fetch and more. Freeman recommends shorter spurts of exercise for cats, such as 2-3 play periods around 5 minutes long. In addition to the positive physical benefits of proper exercise, these types of activities can also help keep your pet from becoming bored, potentially reducing the temptation for undesirable behaviors.