Obesity is a growing threat to pet health
If you take your dog on a waddle instead of a walk, it might be time to adjust his diet or feeding habits. The same holds true if your cat is too fat to catch a rat (or just lounges around in a hat).
There’s no shame in packing a few extra pounds around the middle, but too much excess body weight can lead to obesity in your pets, posing long-term health problems for your best buds.
So, how can you tell you have an overweight dog? For starters, make sure he has a waist. If there is no discernible waist between his belly and rear, and he’s not cutting the handsome profile he once did, it might be time for a diet. There’s also the “rib test.” If your dog has a normal weight, you should be able to feel – but not see – his ribs. Your veterinarian can also provide information on your pup’s ideal weight based on his breed and age. Other signs your pets are overweight include a lack of stamina or a marked reduction or interest in physical activity. The same basic guidelines apply to our feline friends, if you want to know whether you have a fat cat.
If you suspect your furry family members are overweight, don’t wait to reduce the weight around their waists. Some immediate remedies include portion control and meal-time changes using a PetSafe® Smart Feed Automatic Pet Feeder, which includes a Slow Feed option for those furry friends that gulp their food. You can also encourage your dog or cat to get more exercise using PetSafe® pet toys, such as the Automatic Ball Launcher.
Dr. Elizabeth Shull, an animal behaviorist who served 20 years on the faculty of the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, weighed in with PetSafe® on the important subject of pet obesity and the harm it poses to the animals we love.
Question: How can you get your pet to lose weight?
Answer: It’s not that different from people: Restrict calories and increase exercise. Fortunately, there are a number of food options available today that provide an adequate volume of food but at reduced caloric count.
Supplement regular dog food with bulk that is low calorie. A common recommendation is to provide a can of unsalted green beans as snacks or to add bulk to what the dog is eating. They can feel satiated without over-consuming calories.
If you want your cat to lose weight, consider adding more canned or raw foods to her diet. Feed multiple small meals a day rather than letting them free-feed. Encourage exercise with toys and vertical play areas.
Question: Dogs will eat green beans?
Answer: Some will. Some love it. I have a dog that loves lettuce. Not every dog will eat green beans; you have to experiment. Look for lower-calorie dog foods that provide increased fiber and increased bulk that satisfies the dog but at a lower calorie rate. There are websites that can calculate what your dog's resting energy requirement is, and that have charts that tell you how many times you need to multiply that resting energy requirement. It’s based on such things as whether the animal is neutered or intact, if they are active, or you want them to gain weight or lose weight. Other considerations are whether they are an active sporting dog or a growing puppy. You can look up resting energy requirements for cats, too, or use a cat calorie calculator to determine ideal weight and any needed diet adjustments.
Question: What are the consequences of obesity in cats and dogs?
Answer: Very similar to what they are in people. It can lead to elevation of lipids in the blood stream, and certain breeds are more prone to hyperlipidemia than others. It takes a toll on all organ systems – heart, respiration, gastrointestinal. They can get fat infiltration into their livers, which decreases life expectancy. Osteoarthritis is a concern. The heavier they are, the more impact on their joints.
It can affect the liver, and increase the likelihood of pancreatitis, which can be a painful and very serious condition.