Obesity has reached epidemic proportions not only in humans but also in our pets. The secondary conditions of osteoarthritis, diabetes, and cardiac disease are much more prevalent because of our desire to please our pets by overfeeding them.
For our indoor cats and sedentary apartment-dwelling dogs, obesity can be difficult to prevent. If you can’t easily feel your dog’s ribs or see a visible waistline from the side, he or she may already be overweight. If your cat’s rib cage seems padded and he has a large fat pad in his groin area, he may be obese. Your veterinarian can help you define how many pounds overweight your pet may be and set up a diet plan.
Genetics plays a part in obesity, but since we can’t alter those, let’s concentrate on what we can control. The best way to prevent obesity is to exercise and eat right. (No great surprise there.)
For your dog, this means planned play periods, walks, visits to the dog park, or time cavorting with buddies. I have even taught a dog to walk on a treadmill. For cats, this means playing with feather toys on strings or using catnip to incite activity. My cat actually fetches and retrieves crumpled-up balls of paper. (He loves the crinkly noise.)
The other part of the formula to prevent pet obesity is the intake of calories. If your pet is putting on weight despite getting ample exercise, then you need to reduce their calorie intake.
Just like with human food, pet food comes with nutritional labels. Look at your pet food’s fat content and the total volume of food per 24 hours. Then look at the same nutritional info on your pet’s treats.
Putting your pet on a diet involves reducing portions. Cats and dogs should eat two to three times per day. Use low-calorie foods and treats, break your dog biscuits in half to spread them out, use carrots or green beans in lieu of fattening biscuits, or cook your own low-calorie dog biscuits.
Research shows that leaner pets live longer, healthier lives. Since most of us will outlive our beloved pets, we can all do our best to help them live as long and as healthfully as possible.
This copyrighted article first appeared in the Residences section of The Palm Beach Post. It may have been updated since its original publication.