It is estimated that over 54% of dogs and cats are overweight or obese. That is truly frightening when you think about that, over half of our pets are at increased risk of disease because we are not controlling what we feed them and how we exercise them. Heart disease, diabetes, orthopedic problems and skin issues are all directly related to being overweight. These issues can be prevented by keeping your pet lean. After 20 years of being in practice, I have found the #1 reason pets live a long time is because they are lean and exercised.
There are several reasons why our pets are getting fat, let’s look what we can do to help prevent it from happening. First, look at the food you are feeding your pet, is it a high quality, low carbohydrate diet? Everyone is talking about Paleo and South Beach for people, let’s seriously look at it for pets. Cats are true carnivores, meaning they should be eating meat, and meat only. When we fill them up on corn and wheat, they get fat (just like people). Of course, corn and wheat really taste good so cats typically like these foods (like Iams and Meow Mix) but it is not the healthiest for our cats. Stick with true grain-free foods for cats and feed wet food only. It is much higher in water content and keeps cats from getting dehydrated. By doing this, it makes cat’s kidneys last longer. Dogs too can benefit from grain-free foods as well. Often times by eliminating the grains in our dog’s food we reduce allergies, ear infections and they drop pounds! Also remember that you are in charge of portion control. I recommend feeding according to package directions but the low end of the weight range. If the package says feed 1-1 ¾ cup for a 20 pound dog, feed just 1 cup. Try to feed only fruits and vegetables for treats. These are really healthy for them and packed with fresh vitamins and minerals.
Next, is exercise! We really need to get our dogs and cats moving! Every dog should have at minimum 30 minutes of activity a day in the form of a walk, run or chasing the ball. This will ensure they are using their muscles and keeping their metabolism charged. Cats are a bit trickier because they tend to sleep all day. Use laser pointers, hide their treats or food for them to work for it or just throw a toy for them to fetch. You would be surprised how many cats actually will fetch a toy for you.
If you think your pet is overweight or obese it is important to see your veterinarian to have a weight loss plan developed for you. We can calculate exact calories needed on a daily basis based on the pet’s activity level. Once your pet starts losing weight, you will be amazed how young they act again and how much more energy they will have. For more information on pet obesity please see petobesityprevention.org.