Obesity is the No. 1 health risk for pets in America. According to the 2014 Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 53 percent of dogs and 58 percent of cats in the United States are overweight or obese. Overweight or obese dogs and cats have an increased risk of diabetes, hypertension, shortened life expectancy, osteoarthritis, kidney disease, breathing problems and heart disease. Scary isn’t it?
How did your pet become overweight? The main cause is overfeeding and over treating. Just like people, dogs and cats gain excess weight when they eat more calories than they use. Most of us (one in five) do not even know our pet is overweight.
What the ideal weight looks like – your dog’s ribs should be slightly visible and easily felt behind the shoulder blades. Looking from the side, the abdomen (just above the hind legs) should look ‘tucked up’ as compared to the chest. Looking from above, the abdomen should be slimmer than the chest and the hips, forming an hourglass figure. With a cat, you should be able to quite easily feel the ribs. The base of the cat’s tail should have slight fat covering this area and it should feel smooth. You should be able to feel a small amount of fat over the bony parts, such as the spine, shoulders and hips. Looking from above your cat should have a definite waist. From the side, a cat should have a slight abdominal tuck.
What should you do? Talk with your veterinarian to find out if your dog or cat is overweight and get a recommended weight management plan. This plan will probably have two parts: nutrition and exercise. All you need to do is stick to it!
Things you can do right now – healthy living is not just healthy eating, it is also being active!
Dogs – take your dog for two brisk walks a day, not light strolls. Most people walk their dogs at a pace of 20-25 minutes per mile. Aim for 12-15 minutes per mile pace, which should bring you to a light sweat. Get in 15 minutes of active playtime twice a day with toys, tennis balls or whatever gets them moving. Cats – get a feather toy, Ping-Pong balls or a balled up piece of wax paper, remote controlled toy mouse or a laser pointer for your cat to chase around the house.
Most importantly, keep track of your dog and cat’s weight and make sure you check in with your veterinarian regularly!