Is Your Pet Overweight?

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!