Is My Pet Overweight?

   Is your dog or cat overweight?  Did you know obesity in pets is a growing problem?  It has been reported that 45% of dogs and 58% of cats are overweight or obese.  Being overweight can cause a lot of health problems for our pets, including heart disease, respiratory disease and joint disease.  Here are a few ways you can get out there and help your pet shed more than hair and get back into great shape..

     For dogs, start with cutting back on their portions and treats between meals.  Dogs are programmed to eat until they feel full.  Most people feed their pet 1.5 to 2 times their caloric requirement.  Furthermore, most dogs and cats are spayed or neutered, slowing down their metabolism and decreasing their daily caloric requirements.  One trick you can do to allow your dog to feel full and decrease the calories without changing to a low calorie diet, is reduce the food portion by 1/3 to 1/2 and add 1/4 to 1/2 a can of green beans.  Most dogs love them and the beans allow them to feel full without the extra calories.

     Exercise is not only important for physical shape and health, but also important for your pet’s mental health.  A fenced back yard is great, but not a substitute for walking, swimming, or playing ball with your pet.  The time together builds your relationship, helps with manners and obedience in public, and decreases common behavior problems seen by most veterinarians.  I recommend walking your pet for at least 15 minutes in the coolest time of the day.  Pets like people need to gradually increase their exercise time and distance.  It would be difficult for a pet that is not used to jogging to go on a 2 mile jog.  Also, be aware of the type of terrain you are exercising on.  Where concrete is great for filing the nails, it can be hard on the pads and cause abrasions and ulcerations as well.  If the weather is bad, some pets can be trained to walk on a treadmill.  Swimming can be great 10-20 minutes a day in a safe and easy accessible location.  Remember to rinse them off and clean their ears after swimming in lakes and rivers.  Playing fetch for 10-15 minutes a day is like sprinting on the football field.  It can be great for the muscles, lungs and burning calories, but it can put a lot of strain and wear on the joints and ligaments.  If your pet has joint problems, playing fetch is not recommended.

     Our purring companions are a little harder to exercise because they tend to be content at doing nothing.  Again, we have to cut back on their food intake and treats to make the biggest impact on weight loss.  I recommend 1/4 to 1/3 a cup of dry cat food twice a day or 1/4 to 1/2 a can of cat food, depending on the size of the can.  One must understand the small kibbles of food are calorie dense.

     Exercise your cat with toys, such as strings, feathers, balls and other widely available toys made specifically for cats.  Laser pointers are one of the fastest growing types of toys.  The cats and dogs see the red dot as a bug or other edible object.   With lasers, you want to be careful not to point the beam directly into your pet’s eyes.  Even though they are low class lasers, they can still cause retinal damage if held on the eyes for too long.

     In summary, take a good look at your pet or pets and decide if they seem overweight.  I hope you will be able to use some of these tips to get out there and help your pet or pets to live longer and stronger for many years to come.

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