Undoubtedly, your pets have been loving all the time with you while you work from home or spend your evenings on your favorite couch instead of favorite restaurant, but is there more of them to love recently? It may not be the dreaded “COVID-19 pounds”, but even a little extra weight from extra treats can affect your pet’s long-term health (and yours). Staying healthy is always better with a partner, here are some tips and tricks to help pets lose pandemic weight and you can do it together!

Even though exercise is vital to a healthy lifestyle, the old adage, “you can’t outrun a bad diet,” still rings true; especially with your pets! Maybe an extra treat while you’re eating lunch, a shared snack, or a little bribery for a quiet Zoom call has made its way into their daily routine, but those extra calories can equal extra pounds.

Tip 1 to help pets lose weight

First, check with your vet and make sure you are feeding your dog or cat the correct amount during mealtime. Their bag of food makes broad assumptions to determine the quantities during mealtime, and your dog or cat may not match those guidelines or their activity levels.

Tip 2 to help pets lose weight

Second, switch to healthy snacks for you and your pet! Carrots and green beans are low calorie, crunchy, and easy to keep on your desk while you work. One for you, one for them! If your pooch is not up for healthy snacks, buy low calorie treats (they’ll never know) or you can use the kibble you usually feed them at dinner time. Measure out their dinner in advance, then take a few kibbles from their pre-portioned dinner to avoid extra calories. They won’t notice, but their hips will.

Tip 3 to help pets lose weight

Once you dial in their diet, hit the hiking trails and parks together! The weather is perfect for socially distanced walks, and with a simple equipment swap, your pup can burn even more calories. Ditch the retractable leash and switch to a long lead (basically a really long leash). Retractables can break and have severely injured some people and pets. With the extra length, you can turn your walks into a “sniff safari” that will mentally engage your dog and they will burn even more calories as they wander back and forth. Reminder: many hiking trails have a 6-foot maximum for leashes, so keep the long leads for your local park and neighborhood.

Does your dog think they’re always racing towards the finish line? Buy a harness to make it more comfortable for you and your pup on walks. There is a wide variety to match your dog’s activity and “excitement” level when walking, and it can turn a wild ride into a fun outing. Some harnesses provide a better weight distribution, so your pet doesn’t choke themselves. Others provide non painful cues (Halti, Easy Walk) that can lessen their pulling. Avoid any device that provides a painful reaction to stop their pulling like a choke chain or Prong collar; this can lessen their desire to go for walks and cause long term damage to your relationship. Like a bespoke suit or dress, the fit is key. Every harness requires a little extra fitting to your particular pooch. Taking the extra time to find one that fits right will make all the difference in their comfort and your control.

Results take time, and that’s ok! Rapid weight loss can be as damaging as rapid weight gain, so take it slow. If you need to cut your pet’s calorie intake, follow your vet’s guidance exactly; sometimes losing even a couple pounds can take a couple months. If you have both been a little more sedentary, slowly expand your exercise schedule. Going from 5 minutes of play time to a 5k overnight is not good for your pet, or you!

Your pet is your partner, and with a few of these tips and tricks, you can spend many more years together.


Michael Morefield is the Marketing and Communications Director at the Arizona Animal Welfare League, the state’s oldest and largest no-kill shelter.