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Your dog sits lovingly at your feet while you’re eating dinner, giving you those big puppy dog eyes. You give him a piece of your food because you just can’t stand the guilt trip any longer. This is a common situation for many dog and cat guardians. You give your furry BFF food off the table or put out a bowl of food all day long for them to eat and the next thing you know, you’ve got an overweight dog.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. According to the recently released Banfield Pet Hospital’s 2017 State of Pet Health, one in three pets is overweight. One in three. Since 2007, the number of overweight dogs has increased by 158 percent. That’s a lot of overweight animals.
Cats are especially prone to gain extra weight given they usually have a sedentary indoor lifestyle and higher calorie foods compared to dogs. Health risks because of the poundage are a threat to our beloved cats and dogs, similar to how obesity affects humans health. Cats and dogs may suffer cardiac disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, orthopedic injuries, osteoarthritis, respiratory disorders, as well as various forms of cancer.
Not only does the dog and cat obesity epidemic pose health risks, it’s also costing people tons of money. According to the Banfield report, over a four-year period owners of an overweight dog spent 17 percent more in health care costs and 25 percent more on medications, $2,026 more per year. For cats, owners spent 36 percent more on diagnostic procedures, $1,178 overall per year.
What may be worse: guardians don’t even know their cat or dog is overweight. “Of pet owners, 22 percent of dog owners and 15 percent of cat owners characterized their pet as normal weight when it was actually overweight or obese. This is what I refer to as the ‘fat pet gap’ or the normalization of obesity by pet parents. In simplest terms, we’ve made fat pets the new normal,” said Association for Pet Obesity Prevention founder Dr. Ernie Ward.
So what do you do if your cat or dog is overweight? Thankfully, there are solutions!
Helping Dogs Lose Weight
That’s right, your dog needs to hit the gym! Okay, maybe not the gym, but at least some sort of daily exercise. This is important to help lose/maintain weight, but daily exercise also helps keep your pet’s muscles strong, cardiovascular system pumping, and their metabolism well regulated, according to the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Play fetch, go for a run, have a dog play date, anything to get your canine up and moving.
2. No More Treats
Well, not exactly. Treats are okay but in moderation. Instead of high-calorie treats, try a piece of carrots or green beans instead. Another suggestion is to take a portion of your dog’s dry food and use those pieces as dog treats (make sure you decrease their dinner portion if you do this, though).
3. Talk to Your Veterinarian
If you’re struggling to help your dog lose weight, make an appointment with your veterinarian and talk about starting a safe and healthy weight loss program.
Helping Cats Lose Weight:
1. Exercise Creatively
Unlike with dogs, the ways to exercise your cat are limited. Dr. Torres, Assistant Professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences at Colorado State University and a veterinarian with the Veterinary Teaching Hospital’s Community Practice, suggests hiding your cat’s food in different areas around the house to force them to “hunt” for their meal. Also using feather toys and laser pointers to get your cat up and moving are also good ways to shed some of those extra pounds.
2. Adopt Another Cat
Only do this after careful consideration! In some cases, adopting a playful cat from your local shelter can help your overweight cat play and interact. Provided that they are well matched and have plenty of space to live together, two cats provide each other with their necessary needs: social interaction, exercise, and mental stimulation.
3. Limit Treats
Just like with dogs, treats have high-calories and should be cut back.
4. No Free Feeding
It’s also important not to free feed your cat (as in, don’t leave food around all day for your cat to eat). Try feeding a measured amount of food instead. PetMD recommends feeding, “two to four small portions daily and controls the amounts fed so that over a period of time the cat does not gain weight.” You’ll also want to make sure the cat food is high in protein and fat, but low in carbohydrates.
5. Talk to Your Veterinarian
Your veterinarian can create a weight loss program and offer tips and suggestions specific to your cat.
As pet guardians, we are responsible for keeping our companion animals happy and healthy. Dogs and cats are dependent on us to provide an appropriate diet and an enriching lifestyle that won’t leave them overweight with health issues.
Have you ever had an overweight cat or dog? Leave a comment below to share how you were able to get them to lose weight!
Lead image source: Andi Fisher/Flickr