According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 53% of dogs and 55% of cats in the United States are considered obese. Perhaps a more concerning statistic is 22% of dog owners and 15% of cat owners felt their obese pets were within a normal weight ranges despite being clinically obese. Overweight pets face many of the same health risks as humans including osteoarthritis, diabetes and heart disease. Statistically, obesity is known to decrease the lifespan of our pets by 2.5 years. Determining if your pet is overweight can be as simple as gently running your hands down the sides of the chest. Ribs should be easily felt without having to press deeper into the skin. Look at you pet from the side, the stomach should tuck in higher than the chest. Annual wellness exams performed by a veterinarian will include an assessment of your pet's weight. Veterinarians can also rule out any underlying medical causes for weight gain. The majority of obese dogs and cats we see in our office are given too many treats and table scraps. Treats are especially high in fat and calories to make them more enticing. Rawhide and other chewing bones often have more calories than your pet's own food.
The first step in a successful weight loss plan is to cut out these treats. Try breaking them into quarters and give less. Or better yet, substitute that Milkbone with baby carrots or green beans which will have fewer calories. Weight loss will also be more successful when you measure your pet's food. Be consistent with the amount fed each day and always feed less than the recommended amount on the back of the food bag. Lastly, exercise and increased activity will always be a critical part of any weight loss plan. Get those furry kids up and playing and the pounds will be dropping off in no time.