According to a 2007 study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 43 percent of dogs – approximately 32 million – are overweight or obese and potentially face serious health problems. Approximately 50% of all adult cats over 7 years of age are obese.
Many pet-owners are unaware that their pet is unhealthy or, according to a recent survey, may be too embarrassed to address the problem with their veterinarian or fellow pet-owners. Vets may even hesitate to broach the sensitive subjects of weight and obesity. Nationally recognized veterinarian Dr. Bernadine Cruz, DVM, one of the resident veterinarian advisors on MyPetCareTV.com, has put together a list of questions pet owners need to ask:
§ What is obesity?
§ How does this happen to my pet?
§ What are the medical concerns?
§ What can I do as a pet-owner?
§ Is medical intervention available?
Pet obesity is defined as being 20 percent over ideal body weight. Improved medical care, indoor living and nutritious food have contributed to pets living longer, healthier lives. But a plethora of dining choices and treats, along with pet owners who desire to lavish edible love on their furry family members, have contributed to the expanding problem of dog and cat obesity. Other causes can range from genetics and breed, to over-feeding, lack of exercise, boredom, and old age. Obesity can decrease your pet’s lifespan by 15 percent and decreases the quality of life your pet can live.
How can you determine if you have pudgy pet: with a simple Body Condition Scoring test. With your dog or cat standing, look down on them. You should see an indentation after the ribs. If it looks like a sausage, it’s fat. Place your hand gently on your pet’s ribcage. With slight pressure you should be able to feel its ribs. If you are pinching an inch, it’s fat.
So, what can you do to get your pet back on track? Dr. Cruz has put together some simple steps that can help you develop a “New Year New Pet” regime:
“Dogs are really the easiest to get to slim down. They are much more willing to go for a walk and thankfully most don’t know how to open cans or cupboards,” says Cruz.
Step one - keep the animals out of the kitchen when you are cooking and away from the table when people are eating. It is the rare person who can resist slipping a tidbit to that poor, poor pitiful creature staring at you.
Step two - If a dog just has to have a treat because it was the good boy or girl and went potty or some equally talented act…give it a green bean, a baby carrot or piece of apple. If the pet says ‘no way, where is the good stuff’ well you are exonerated because you offered but the pet said no. You can also give a piece of its regular dry food as a treat.
“Cats can be more trying. You can’t put a cat on a very strict diet or just try to tough it out for a day or two by offering food your cat doesn’t like and expect it to change its mind. They can develop a fatal liver condition. Slow is always best for a cat.”
Step one - Cats don’t have to have food available 24/7. Controlled feedings of measured amounts is best. If you must leave food out for your cat, hide it in various spots in the house in small quantities, and then the cat has to search for it.
Step two - Cats can exercise. They just prefer not to. Find what floats your cat’s boat. It may be chasing a laser light or doing acrobatics while playing with a string. Try to set up some regular “play dates” with your cat.