Obesity in cats and dogs comes from the same cause as in human beings – the body takes in more energy than it puts out. Life is too easy, food too available. Too much food and too little exercise, along with a low metabolism rate, can make your pet balloon up fast. One cat in every 10 is overweight. Four dogs in every 10 are overweight. Why is this cause for worry? You love your pet fast as much as thin. But a fat pet has greater risk of diseases of the skin, heart, stomach, liver, and kidneys. Overweight can contribute to diabetes. It puts a burden on joints and contributes to osteoarthritis. And it increases a tendency to suffer from heat stroke and lengthens recovery time from surgery. As anyone who has had a fat animal knows, treating pet obesity is harder than preventing it. If your pet has a tendency to put on pounds, try the following:
- Check your dog or cat for extra weight by feeling its sides – you should be able to feel the ribs easily. If there is more than ¼ inch of fat between fur and ribs, the animal is overweight. You should be able to see a waistline from above on a dog.
- Know what your pet weighs, and keep track of it. Most vets have a scale on which you can weigh your dog. You can also weigh your pet at home if it is light enough to pick up easily in your arms. First weigh yourself. Then hold your pet in your arms and step on the scale. Subtract your weight from the combined weight of you and your pet.
- Check with your veterinarian before putting your dog or cat on a diet. In general, reduce caloric intake to 75 percent of what an animal of its weight should normally eat. Buy food that is low in fat – compare labels. For dogs, add fiber, like a bulking agent (Metamucil), bran, or canned vegetables (to 10-15 percent of the animal’s food). Commercial diet foods come with instructions on how much food to give to animals of various sizes for safe weight loss. Change the diet in increments (shift foods) rather than all at once, otherwise the animal may get diarrhea. Supplement with multivitamins. Most important, discuss your animal’s diet with your veterinarians.
- Try feeding an overweight dog or cat more often. Take the daily ration and divide it into three meals, for instance.
- Give your dog plenty of exercise, but increase it slowly. Don’t exercise the animal within an hour after eating. Small dogs may need only the exercise they get in the house or yard. Older dogs may need only to be taken for walks. Other dogs can chase balls or sticks. You can take your cat for a walk on a leash, too, if you use a harness rather than a collar, which might choke it.
- Don’t feed your animal from the table, and try to stop feeding snacks like kitty treats and dog biscuits, which are high in fats. Animals are very good at begging, and all your efforts to help your pet lose weight may be foiled by one tender-hearted but unenlightened family member who slips the pet treats on the sly. Convince the members of the family that it is a kindness to help the animal lose weight. Be hard-hearted. If you do feed treats, figure in the calories.