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Is Your Dog or Cat Too Fat? Advice on Pet Obesity Awareness Day

A local vet talks about overweight dogs and cats, and what to do to prevent or shed the pounds. Today, Oct. 10, is National Pet Obesity Awareness Day.

 

Veterinarian Dean Scott of the Animal Clinic of Brandon said it's a daily issue he confronts at work, overweight dogs and cats. "Fifty-two weeks a year is pet obesity week around here," Scott said in an interview for National Pet Obesity Awareness Day, which in 2012 is celebrated today, Oct. 10.

"I tell folks, regardless of what we do on our side of the table, [keeping your pet fit] is the single best thing you can do to not spend a lot of money at the vet," he said. "Your pet will have a lot less problems and live longer."

According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, an estimated 54 percent of cats and dogs nationwide are considered overweight or obese. Along with decreased life-expectancy, overweight pets are at risk of cranial cruciate ligament injury, heart and respiratory disease, insulin resistance and Type-2 diabetes and osteoarthritis.

"We talk about it daily, pet obesity," Scott said. "I'm not one who pooh-poohs around it. You run across the rare person who isn't aware their pet is overweight, and it's nice to make headway with those folks, but most pet owners know if their pets are overweight. Unfortunately, a fair percentage of them don't do the things they need to do to fix that."

To help pet owners confront their pets' weight issues, Scott offered a set of rules for both dogs and cats, as noted below.

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  • Don't give love through food, give love through attention. "That's all they're really asking for," Scott aded. "They want attention from you, just don't do it in the form of food. Attention has no calories."
  • Measure food portions. "You'd be surprised how many times people miss the measured amounts," Scott said. "They just fill the bowl. 'I use a cup,' they say. But that 'cup' could be three or four cups." Measure portions carefully and consistently and adjust accordingly. "If you've been giving [your overweight pet] three cups of food, decrease it to two- and a-half cups of food." Consider, also, switching to light diet.
  • Break up treats. "If you give your pet pieces of a treat rather than the whole treat, they don't care," Scott. "All they think is, yeah, you just gave them something."
  • There are no absolutes. More active pets should eat more. "I use my former, 60-pound Labrador as an example," Scott said. "One cup of light diet food, two Milkbones a day and that was it. Sounds abysmal, but her thyroid was normal and I have to admit, she was a terrible walker. She's lose her mind on a walk. It became even more critical to control her food. If she got any more than that, she'd gain weight."
  • Ban table scraps. "People food should be zero," Scott said. "That goes beyond a calorie issue. It's also a health issue in the sense that we see a lot of vomiting and diarrhea in pets, and ultimately people food is responsible."
  • Keep it simple: "Dry dog food, water, hard treats," Scott said. "If you keep the diet simple you will have significantly less problems, not only with weight but also with dental issues. When you have a wide variety of food sources it becomes very difficult to tell how many calories are going in."
  • There's no rush. "It's always worthwhile to address weight issues," Scott said. But don't stress over it. Starting in October, don't aim to have a trim dog in November. "As long as you're addressing it, if you at least stop the 2-pound, 5-pound, 10-pound weight gain, you're already doing better and right by them."
  • Check the scale annually. "When you live with your pet you don't really notice them [putting on weight]," Scott said. "It's nice to have yearly visits to the vet and get them weighed. It's hard to weigh a Labrador at home."

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Confronting The Overweight Feline

As for setting an optimal weight for both cats and dogs, that simply isn't doable; there's too many variables, Scott said, such as how active the pet is.

For cats, his rule of thumb is this: The average cat is about 10 pounds. Twelve to 13 pounds is reasonable for the bigger-framed, big-boned cat. "When you get into 15, 16, 17 pounds," Scott added, "all of them will be overweight."

Dealing with fats cats is a much harder issue than dealing with obese dogs, he acknowledged.

"Cats are a lot tougher because good luck exercising a cat," Scott said. "Cats will make up with a couple extra hours of sleep" any exertion.

Your best bet is to play with your cat as much as possible, possibly using a laser beam your cat can chase, Scott said.

Another issue with cats is that they are more independent than dogs, which is why, in many cases, they are the preferred pet.

"Most cat owners do what I do, which is, you fill the bowl," Scott said. "You kind of free-feed them."

Therein lies the problem, though, for multiple-cat households.

"If you have three cats and one of them is overweight you kind of have to treat them like dogs," Scott said. "Measure out their food, put it down for 20 minutes, pick it up. Here's yours, the other two get these bowls. Why are you picking it up? So the cat knows that the next time you put it down they better get in there. But that's a hard sell for a lot of cat owners.

At least ensure that the pounds don't add up.

"Sure, you're cat is 15 pounds, it's overweight, but if your cat is 15 pounds every year, you're doing okay," Scott said. "You don't have many options with cats."

 
Mary SMITH October 10, 2012 at 04:11 PM
The Pets are being poisoned by the same food chemicals that are causing obesity in people. The food was changed in the USA, UK and Australia 30 years ago when dangerous food chemicals from the USA was allowed into Europe. The food today causes stubborn insulin If you have stubborn insulin you hold fat and have a hard time losing weight. You can eat very little and the weight still does not come off. Stubborn insulin will hold fat and diets won't work. When researchers used a specialized diabetes diet on overweight people all lost weight even those who did not have diabetes. See here http://spirithappy.org/wp/2011/06/29/i-have-tried-every-diet-new-study-agrees-with-spirit-happy-diet-soda-causes-weight-gain/
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