Obesity in Dogs and Cats
In 2014, 52.7 percent of dogs and 57.9 percent of cats in the U.S. were overweight or obese, according to Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. Overweight pets are at risk of developing a number of severe secondary medical conditions. These conditions include high blood pressure, heart and respiratory disease, osteoarthritis and diabetes.
Overweight Pets Have Shorter Life Expectancy
Not only do heavier dogs and cats have less interaction with their owners, but they also tend to live shorter lives. Due to the extra pounds they carry, some pet owners feel it is normal lazy behavior. Some cat owners think their pets are supposed to sleep all day. However, it’s important to consider their weight, which may be masking serious health issues.
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How to Tell If Your Dog is Overweight
Looking from the side and top of your pet, you should see a distinct waistline. There should not be any bulges or bumps. You should be able to feel the ribs as you lightly run your hands over the chest area (no cheating–-squeezing the chest does not count!). If you can reach under your pet’s belly and grab a hand full of fat, your pet is overweight.
Start a Weight Loss Program
Although weight loss is tough, it will add years to your pet’s life and make those years more enjoyable for both of you. Check with your pet’s veterinarian before starting any weight loss program, as there may be medical conditions that is causing your pet to be overweight.
Some common diseases that tend to pack on the pounds are Cushing’s disease and hypothyroidism, and they need to be ruled out before beginning any diet or exercise routine. You can schedule an appointment with your local veterinary assistant to check for these conditions.
Exercise Your Pet
An easy place to start is with exercise. Although dogs like to stroll at a leisurely pace, checking each bush and blade of grass for the previous visitor, a more brisk pace would burn more calories. Keep the leash tight and close to your body. Start off at an easy walk or jog for 10-15 minutes. Remember to pick a pace you would be able to handle.
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For cats, waving around a stick with feathers attached is usually enough to grab and hold their attention for several minutes of chasing and playing. Squeaky toys, balls or anything your pet finds fascinating make for a good playtime.
Establish a Healthy Diet
However, sometimes exercise is not enough and the possibility of lowering the calories your pet consumes has to be added to the weight loss program. Consult with your veterinarian to design a healthy diet for your pet.