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Losing the Pandemic Pounds 

Pets, like their humans, tended to gain weight during the time of social distancing. Here are a few ways to help your pets get back to a more ideal weight.

The shock was real—but not entirely unexpected—the first time we brought our little (formerly) 11-pound rescue mutt to the vet after the pandemic had started. Three pounds is not a big weight gain for an adult human, but for this little guy, it was a lot. I guess all those evenings opting to watch “Dogs” on Netflix instead of watching IRL dogs at the dog park had caught up with us all. In the most loving way possible, our vet instructed us to put the dude on a diet, pronto. And he’s not alone: More than a third of people with pets say their pets became overweight during the pandemic, according to a 2021 survey from Hill’s Pet Nutrition, with more than two-thirds of those people getting defensive when learning about the issue. 

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Keeping your pets’ weight in check helps them lower their risk of kidney and respiratory disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and even cancer, reminds the American Veterinatary Medical Foundation. In some cases, it can add years to their lives.  

“Your veterinarian has your pet’s best interests in mind, and his/her recommendations are based on a commitment to your pet’s good health,” the AVMF suggests on its website. “It’s not about you; it’s about your pet’s health.”

Below are some of tips vets recommend for helping pets lose or maintain a healthier weight.

  • First, work with your vet to determine how much food—if any—to cut from your pet’s diet. For us, our vet gave us a specific recommendation of when to cut rations, and by how much, and it was less than I may have cut if I would have been guessing. 

  • Keep pets’ food away from each other. In our case, our little dog was getting heavier at least in part due to the addition of a new “pandemic puppy” in our lives. The older dog was now able to graze on the puppy’s food when we weren’t paying attention—something we had to learn to correct. In our case, we were able to put the puppy’s food higher up, on a stool, where the smaller dog could no longer reach it. 

  • Agree as a family not to feed extra food or treats. Keeping a healthy weight requires the help of the whole family, the AVMF reminds.
  • Get more active, together. People in Central Oregon already get out and about quite often, but finding more ways to include the dog—or even that adventure cat—on your regular outings can be good for everyone. Because let’s face it: Pandemic weight gain has come for many of us… not just the pets.

About The Author

Nicole Vulcan

Nicole Vulcan has been editor of the Source since 2016. While the pandemic reduced "hobbies" to "aspirations," you can mostly find her raising chickens, walking dogs, riding all the bikes and attempting to turn a high desert scrap of land into a permaculture oasis. (Progress: slow.)
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