Taking a proactive approach to your pet’s health is one of the best ways to ensure they live a long and happy life. Did you know that an estimated 59% of cats and 54% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese? As a result, almost 80 million pets are at risk for developing arthritis, diabetes, catastrophic kidney and heart disease, high blood pressure and many forms of cancer. Read on to learn more about keeping your pet happy and healthy, at just the right weight. One way to tell if your pet could benefit from shedding a few pounds is to feel around their ribs and spine. You should be able to locate both with only a thin layer of fat separating the skin from the bones. Second, find a vet and ask them about your pet’s weight at every check-up. If you’re concerned that your pet may be overweight, talking with your veterinarian about diet options can help you determine the best course of action. If your pet has other health issues, there may be a solution that addresses both their dietary and health needs. Your veterinarian will know your pet’s history and health issues and will be able to recommend the best options for your pet. There are, of course, things you can do to get started on the right path! Use a Measuring Cup According to Dr. Ernie Ward, DVM, “A pet parent’s single greatest tool in the fight against excess weight is a measuring cup.” Your pet’s food should have a feeding chart, broken down by age and weight, located on the packaging. By understanding your pet’s needs, you can measure each meal and reduce the risk of overfeeding. If you’re hesitant about reducing your pet’s food intake, find a vet and consult with a veterinarian before making any adjustments. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention found that even “10 extra kibbles of food per day can add up to a pound of weight gain per year in indoor cats and small dogs.” Be Mindful With Treats Try to shop for treats with limited ingredients. If you purchase treats with your pet’s health in mind, the digestive and/or dental benefits will not only make your pet happy, but healthy as well. Adding a supplement to your pet’s food can also help boost their energy levels and aid in weight control. Ask your veterinarian if there are specific supplements or prescription diets they recommend for your pet. Exercise Having an exercise routine helps keep your pet in shape and aids in their ability to maintain a healthy weight. It’s especially important for larger dogs to remain in their optimal weight range in order to avoid damage to their hips, joints, and heart. Keeping up on their routines, going on runs, and even letting them loose in the dog park can make all the difference. It’s sometimes difficult to know what our pets need, which is why we trust our veterinarians to lead us in the right direction. Before you begin any nutrition or exercise plan for your pet, find a vet and make an appointment to discuss the best methods for keeping your pet’s weight and health on track.