Natural Weight Maintenance

A holistic approach to weight maintenance involves limiting caloric intake and increasing exercise.


There is no one-size-fits-all regime for managing weight. An animal’s age and general level of health has to be considered, as well as their unique rate of metabolism, dietary preferences, digestive sensitivities and genetic predispositions for certain diseases and illnesses. Injuries during the lifetime of a pet, exposure to environmental risks–even the breed’s ability to adapt to the general climate in which it lives–all really ought to be taken into account when trying to work through an appropriate weight-management program.

What about the home? Does the owner work all day? How often does the dog or cat get fed each day, and how big are the portions? What is the routine for treats and chews? Do family members sneak table scraps to the family dog? Does the cat scavenge from the kitchen counter tops?

Such an approach is necessary for making a holistic recommendation, and for successfully building lasting customer relationships.

Food, Glorious Food
Pet owners have choices when it comes to food, but that doesn’t mean the perfect diet for their pet will necessarily be easy to find.

I have seen dogs and cats thrive on eating pretty plain, dry kibble. On the other hand, I know pets so picky Julia Childs would throw up her hands in defeat. I see dogs that hold onto extra pounds despite heroic efforts by their owners to keep them trim, and starkly skinny cats that scarf down huge fat–and protein–laden meals every day.

So, it’s okay to experiment–try what might seem to work and discard what fails. In many cases, customers will have to continually change, adjust, alter and tweak their pet’s diet over time. That’s good news for a pet retailer, but be careful not to tamper with a diet that’s working for a customer’s pet.

When considering a change in food, consider low-fat and low-carbohydrate options, and don’t underestimate the importance of portion control. One thing I tell my customers often is that if their pet finds low-fat foods less tasty, they can achieve similar calorie control by simply limiting the portion size of regular foods.

Be conversant with the ingredient panels of all the foods in the store. Know which have high protein, low fat, low residue and high fiber. Know that canned food, as rich and yummy as it appears, has way lower protein by volume than dry kibble (because it’s mostly water). Raw diets–both frozen and freeze dried–offer interesting options, and retailers should understand the importance of calcium and other dietary supplements that might be necessary for optimum nutritional absorption.

See Spot Run
Exercise, of course, is critical to weight maintenance. Daily walks, robust games of fetch or simple energetic play indoors boosts the metabolic rate and gets that caloric burn going. Here retailers have great opportunities to introduce the store’s lineup of toys for both indoor and outdoor play. 

Exercise also gives retailers plenty of opportunities to sell beyond toys. For example, extra pounds play havoc on joints, so offer joint maintenance supplements for pets.

Owners need gear, too. Portable food and water containers, treat bags and poop bag containers help get pet and owner out there for fun and fitness.

Retailers have an opportunity, as well as a responsibility, to help customers do right by their pets in managing weight.  Fortunately, storeowners have plenty of options that can help customers succeed while feeding the store’s bottom line.

Dan Headrick is a freelance writer. He and his wife Pam Guthrie own Wag Pet Boutique in Raleigh, N.C.

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