If you're like most pet owners, you probably think of your furry friend as a member of the family. And just like with any other member of the family, you want to make sure your pet is healthy and fit.
Since the late 1990s, pet obesity has been on the rise. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, an estimated 54% of cats and dogs in the United States are overweight or obese. That’s nearly half of all our beloved furry friends! Just like in humans, obesity can lead to a number of health problems in pets. Diabetes, heart disease, cancer, bone and muscle problems from carrying extra weight are just to name a few. Cats and dogs that are even moderately overweight tend to have a shorter lifespan than cats and dogs of a healthy weight by two years! National Pet Obesity Awareness Day is October 13th. This is a good time to reflect on the health of your pet. We know you love them and you like to show your love with food and treats, but pet obesity is not a matter to take lightly. Your pet's quality of life is at stake! So, how can you tell if your pet is obese?
1. If you have a dog or a cat, the easiest way is to stand over them and look down at their figure. They should have a slight indentation at the hips giving them an hourglass shape.
2. If your pet has too much hair to see the shape, you can feel their ribs. You should be able to feel their ribs, but not see them. If you can't feel the ribs, they are probably overweight. If you can see their ribs, they need to fatten up a bit!
3. If your pet is having trouble doing normal activities for their age and breed, they may be overweight. If your pet struggles with running, jumping and playing and is young enough that he should be able to do those things, it might be time for a diet!
Once you've determined that your pet is overweight, how can you help your pet lose weight?
1. Don't just cut way back on your pet's food. Pets need to have enough food to get all of the proper nutrients. Before you cut back, have your vet help you determine what is the appropriate amount of food for your pet based on age, breed, and activity level.
2. In addition to the amount of food you feed, make sure you are feeding a high quality food that is formulated to help pets lose weight. Your vet can also give you suggestions for the type of food to feed.
3. Eliminate unhealthy treats or at least cut way back. What's an unhealthy treat? Almost everything you find in the store. Look for a treat that is low in fat and calories, or better yet, use fruits and vegetables for treats. Lots of dogs love carrots, apples, watermelon, cooked broccoli or cauliflower. Try a variety of fruits and veggies to see which ones your dog likes and start offering those as treats. Cats won't be so open to fruits and vegetables, but they may enjoy a good cat nip toy as a treat.
4. Make sure your pets are getting exercise! Walks, hikes, and play time are all super important for dogs. If your cat is strictly indoors, don't neglect their needs for exercise. Find ways to get your cat to move around by using toys, hiding their food around the house, having climbing structures for them and if you are patient enough, you can even teach them to walk on a leash! If you are having trouble finding the time to exercise your pet, call us so we can do it for you.
National Pet Obesity Awareness Day is a time to reflect on the growing epidemic of obesity in pets and what we can do as responsible pet owners to help address this issue.
If your pet is overweight or obese, there are things you can do to help your pet lose weight safely and effectively. We are here to help, so please reach out if you need more ideas, suggestions or someone to exercise your pet for you!