Contributed by Angie Lewis, Alaska Animal Advocates
Statistics show that over 50% of cats and dogs are overweight. Being overweight is as unhealthy for our pets as it is for us. The complications associated with being overweight are many - breathing problems, possible heart disease, skin and fur problems, arthritis and reduced activity. All of these issues can lead to a poor quality of life.
How can you tell if your pet is overweight?
• When handling your pet, you notice that the ribs and spine are hard to feel or count.
• The waist is distended when looking down at your pet from the top.
• The abdomen sags when viewing your pet from the side. Often, you can actually grab a handful of fat.
• Fat deposits are often noticeable, particularly on the hips, chest, hindquarters, or at the base of the tail.
• Your pet may play less and tire more easily.
• Your pet may struggle to get up and down stairs; have a hard time getting on/off the couch or may even be challenged with walking.
What causes pets to gain weight?
• Age – As pets get older, they require less calories.
• Breed – Certain breeds, such as labs or cocker spaniels are more likely to be overweight.
• Spaying or Neutering – Sometimes metabolism is lower after pets have been spayed/neutered.
What should you do if think your pet might be overweight?
• First, talk with your veterinarian. Ask questions about how much your pet should weigh. Discuss a safe weight loss program – including issues such as exercise, food, treats, etc.
• After speaking with your vet, cut back on the amount of food you are feeding your pet. Measure food with an actual measuring cup
• Offer fewer treats between mealtimes. Make these healthy snacks, such as beans or carrots.
• Talk to your vet about prescription diets.
• Feed your pet less often.
• Speak with your vet and then increase exercise gradually. Start slowly.
• Encourage play, using toys when needed.
• Hide treats – Make it more challenging to attain snacks.
Work together with your veterinarian to assure that your pet is a healthy weight. If he is not, then formulate a plan of action that will help him lose the unwanted pounds. You might even lose a bit of extra weight as you exercise with your pet!