You are (or your dog is) what you eat!
Secret Eaters is a television programme where the film-makers have secretly filmed people who are trying to lose weight to prove how much they actually eat in a day, rather than the bits they only like to remember.
It’s a great reminder of how much we snack on subconsciously and I’m usually watching it whilst munching through a packet of biscuits, completely unaware.
Weight problems are increasing in our pets, too, with some estimates stating that as many as half our pets are currently overweight, with a significant percentage considered clinically obese.
As out pets are fed by us, then it is something that we must take control of, and if needs be write down the actual amounts we give our animals – every sausage, every biscuit, every snack.
Most people think that dogs and cats need a bowl of food a day, but how much is in one bowl? Portion size and the number and type of snacks we feed our pets affects the number of calories eaten by them.
Just imagine feeding your Chihuahua a small party sausage as a treat. Sounds nothing? Actually, for this size of dog, it is equivalent to a human eating a 12oz steak, and if they had two or three. . . well you can see the point.
There is a simple calculation to work out how many calories your pet needs and your vet or vet nurse can easily work this out for you.
For example, a 5kg Yorkshire Terrier needs approximately 350 calories per day, which is about the same as in one skinless chicken breast. If you add in the same amount of rice, you are doubling their calorie intake.
One cup of dry dog food contains between 300 to 500 calories and treats such as dog biscuits range from 15 to 100 calories per biscuit! Many chewy joint sticks for older dogs with arthritis contain fish oil supplements and giving dogs cod liver oil obviously racks up the calories.
Most people will admit to giving their pets a few extra treats but remember, the problem lies with the amount and most of us don’t weigh out the bowl of food or count the biscuits we let our pets have in one day. Exercise can make a difference to the number of calories your pet needs but if you have an indoor cat or an older, less active dog, then you will need to be extra vigilant.
Most dogs (and some cats) are designed to eat anything they can get – it’s a survival requirement in the wild, so they always look hungry and will eat anything given to them. Those pleading brown eyes as they beg for a biscuit or two is only instinct and it takes self-discipline by us to resist.
If you are concerned about your pet’s weight, talk to your vet nurse. They will calculate the required calorie intake and work out a feeding plan with you.
Set out their total food for the day in advance, including snacks, and stick to it. Then weigh your pet twice monthly to see if the diet is working or if you need to adjust it.
Is your pet a secret eater, or are you the secret feeder?
Only you can be the judge of that.