Nearly sixty-five percent of Americans are overweight according to the National Institutes of Health. So are twenty-five percent of our pets, says the National Research Council. Other research puts the percentage even higher.
Bad For Their Health
Overweight dogs and cats develop some of the same health problems as we do, in particular diabetes, heart disease and joint ills.The solution for our pets is the same as for us – eat less and exercise more.
Weight-Watchers® Not Required
Although there are special diets for overweight or less active pets, they are not really necessary. All you need are some changes of habit.If you are giving your pet treats, you may need to cut down on the amount or change to a low calorie tidbit. When giving treats regularly, especially if you are training a dog using food, be sure to include the treats when calculating how much to feed daily.Try breaking biscuits and feeding only half at a time. You can also use fresh or cooked
vegetables or raw apple pieces as treats.
Both dogs and cats will do best with set meal times – twice a day works well for most animals. Free feeding often leads to obesity, and can also result in feline urologic syndrome in cats.
Taking your dog out for daily walks will benefit both you and the dog. If you can’t walk, play ball or Frisbee with the dog, or take it to a dog park and allow him to run with other dogs.Cats love to chase things, and you can spend some quality time with your kitty by playing games with her. Drag a string across the floor, dangle something from a stick, or toss a ball of crumpled aluminum foil.
How To Tell
To determine if your dog is overweight, look at him from above. You should be able to see a waistline. You should also be able to feel individual ribs beneath the skin.If your cat looks overweight, it probably is. If her head or legs look too small for her body, or if she appears to have a thick waist, suspect obesity as the reason.Some breeds of dogs are prone to excess weight gain, especially as they age.
Check With The Vet
Before you put your pet on a diet however, it is best to see the vet for a complete checkup. Some diseases can cause weight gain, you will want to rule those out first.Never put a cat on a restricted calorie diet without veterinary supervision. They can develop a liver condition known as hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver, which can be fatal.
The best food for the overweight animal is one that is high in meat-based protein with a minimum of grain.Special pet foods designed for weight loss usually contain extra fiber. This helps the pet to feel full on less, but may not be that healthy. Dogs and cats don’t need a high fiber diet, and too much fiber can interfere with the absorption of nutrients. Also, the additional fiber usually comes from added grain, which is difficult for many dogs and cats to digest.
Follow your veterinarian’s advice regarding what and how much to feed. Make sure your pet gets plenty of exercise, of a type appropriate for the animal’s age and
physical condition. See your vet regularly for progress checks.The result will be not only a thinner dog or cat, but longer and healthier lives for them