Having a pet is an experience that good owners take pride in. Providing food, shelter, and love to animal is more than just a service to the animal, it’s often rewarding to the human, as well. Sometimes, though, we humans tend to go overboard in giving our pets love and it often ends in their being overweight or obese. To help your pet, be it a cat or a dog, remain happy and healthy, keeping it a healthy weight is key.
Pet Obesity Rates
According to a 2013 study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 57% of cats and 53% of dogs are overweight or obese. That number has jumped dramatically since 2007. The number of obese dogs has increased nearly 37% and the number of obese cats has increased more than 90% in those four years. That means that there are more cats and dogs that are overweight than aren’t, which is very sad considering the hugely negative impacts being overweight can have on your pet’s health.
Overweight pets are more likely to develop diabetes, arthritis and joint problems, exacerbated risk of cardiovascular disease, skin disease, reduced mobility, and a shorter life span. Just like in humans, being overweight or obese comes with serious health consequences that can be costly and sometimes deadly. Helping your pet stay a healthy weight will allow them to live a normal, active life and allow you to save money on veterinary bills and enjoy watching your pet thrive.
Many people don’t even know their pets would be classified as overweight or obese. Becoming aware of this information and understanding how to determine whether your pet is a healthy weight or not is crucial to giving your pet the best care possible. If you are unsure of how to tell by looking at your cat or dog whether it is overweight or not, refer to this chart to help.
What Does an Overweight Animal Look Like?
One of the most easily recognizable signs of an overweight pet is how the rib area looks and feels. If you are able to see your pet’s ribs and shoulder blades distinctly and there is no layer of fat over them, your pet is likely underweight. If there is a slight layer of fat over the ribs and tail, your pet is probably at a healthy weight. If your pet has body rolls and you have to push hard to feel its ribs, chances are your pet is overweight. Your pet should have an overall slender figure and its neck should be smaller than its head, with no rolls of fat on the body.
Preventing pet obesity or helping your pet lose weight doesn’t have to be difficult. It’s much easier to prevent obesity than it is to reverse it, but reversing it is entirely possible. Be sure you are feeding your dog or cat the same measured amount of food at every meal. Don’t leave food out all day or your pet might turn into a “grazer” and begin eating even when he or she is not truly hungry.
If there are multiple pets in the household and they seem to competitively eat, separate the food bowls so there is no rush to finish. This will help prevent overeating. Another important thing to keep in mind is treats. Don’t go overboard on the treats! They are fine in moderation, but some people end up giving their pets large amounts of treats and that can contribute to obesity.
Exercise is Vital
Make sure your pet is getting enough exercise. A great motto is “if your pet is overweight, you aren’t getting enough exercise”. If you have a dog, go on at least one walk every day. If your dog is a larger breed or has high energy levels, one walk will not be enough. Several walks or playtime at the dog park might be necessary to help keep your pet healthy.
If you have a cat, don’t neglect exercise, either. Many people think cats can’t be exercised, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Some cats love going on walks, so if yours is one of those, strap on a harness and a leash and walk your cat just like you would a dog! If your cat isn’t keen on walks (or a harness and leash), pull out the laser pointer and have a long play session until your cat seems tired. Toys with long strings and something dangling at the end are another great way to help your cat get some exercise.
Keeping your pet at a healthy weight is vital to helping them live the happiest, healthiest, and longest life possible. Being overweight or obese can have serious negative effects on their basic bodily functions, so be sure to keep a watchful eye on your pet’s weight and don’t skimp on the exercise!