October 24, 2016

By Dr. Shian Simms

The Obesity Epidemic in our Pets

Who doesn’t love a huggable chubby cat?

As cute as a chubby cat may be, being overweight is a poor indicator of health in people and in animals.  There is an obesity epidemic going on in America amongst our pet dogs and cats.  A 2015 study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention revealed that 53% of dogs and 58% of cats are overweight or obese.  That is over half of all dogs and cats!  In contrast, the national obesity rate in US adults is 38%.  The national childhood obesity rate is 17% for boys and girls aged 2-19.

Only 44% of dogs and 38% cats are at a healthy weight.

How can animals without opposable thumbs or the ability to hunt for their own food be overweight? 

Pet owners often ask me about how to keep their pets healthy.  The number one factor we can all control in our pets is weight.  They eat only what we feed them.  Keeping a healthy weight will help prevent joint issues/injuries, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and help increase life expectancy.  If you love your pudgy cat, you will feed it less.

I’m not saying that helping your pets lose weight is an easy undertaking.  It can be very difficult to resist those pleading eyes, anguished meows and the pitter patter of feline feet following your every move, but staying strong will benefit you both in the long run!

The first step to getting your pet to a healthy weight is to recognize and accept the fact that your pet is overweight.  Most people are very surprised when I tell them that their pets are too heavy. 

The second step is consulting with your veterinarian regarding how much weight your pet needs to lose.  You can then work on a weight loss strategy based on activity level, pre-existing medical conditions, current diet, habits and schedule.  It is important to understand that cats must not lose weight too quickly, and very overweight dogs must exercise safely to prevent unwanted consequences like orthopedic injuries.

The third step is staying the course and not giving up! 

A few quick tips on how to get your cat to lose weight:

1.       Feed canned food only.  No dry food at all.

2.       Puzzle feeder for cats that will only dry food.

3.       Play with them at least 10 mins a day; get them moving!

Tips for dogs:

1.       Calculate how many calories your dog needs per day to lose weight.

2.       Measure out the food ration and stick to it

3.       Use raw baby carrots as treats

4.       Go on at least two 20 minute walk per day

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