Heavy Pets – No Joke

OK, so you know your pet is fat when:

  • You see him waddling into the kitchen and you’re reminded to pick up polska kielbasa for your July 4th barbecue.

  • You catch her in your favorite lounge chair, sitting upright, looking like a perfect pyramid with rolling edges.

Talk about heavy petting . . . [pah-rump-pah!]

OK, so the pet parents/owners of these fur kids either have serious perception deficits or are living in an alternate (bloated) reality.

Worse, they may even think its “cute” when a roly-poly pug walking toward them flops down on its behind because he can’t make it all the way across the room in one try.

Two British soldiers were not laughing when they were busted for animal cruelty in 2006 after over-feeding their chocolate lab until he had the contours of a seal and could only wobble a few steps.

It is no laughing matter that a whopping 54% of dogs and cats in the U.S. are overweight or obese, per the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP). Though sources vary as to the overweight “cutoff” – 10-20% of ideal body weight (IBW) – just about every veterinary source agrees that pets tipping the scales at greater than 20% IBW are obese. Most pets pack on the pounds during middle-age (5-10 years).

More shocking news: 22% and 15% of overweight/obese dog and cat owners respectively believe that their pets “look normal.” One study showed a strong correlation between childhood obesity and obese pets.

As with overweight humans, an undue burden is placed upon an overweight animal’s cardiopulmonary, musculoskeletal and metabolic systems. Overweight or obese pets are more prone to heat intolerance, digestive problems, skin disorders, hypertension, hypothyroidism and adrenal gland failure. Seriously pudgy pets can suffer hip dysplasia and collapse of their trachea (windpipe). They are also at much higher risk for complications or death during anesthesia.

The risk is significantly increased that smaller pets can become overweight. Think of it this way: a pound or two of extra jiggle in your middle likely represents somewhere between ½ - 2% of your total body weight; in a 10-pound dog, that pound or two equals 10-20% more body mass to haul around. Now imagine yourself trying to catch the bus leaden with a proportional worth of extra girth.

So how did we foster a nation full of puffed-out pets?

Our intentions are not usually nefarious. Most of us derive a lot of pleasure from seeing our pets happy. And nothing says happy more than a belly-full of salmon and sweet potato treats for a series of tricks well-turned or, well, just because she’s so cute you can hardly stand it!

For some of us, our pets will always be children and we mistakenly continue to feed them the same quantity and formula as if they were GROWING children.

Excess baggage in the center compartment may also appear because we are “too tired,” “too distracted” or “too busy” to adequately exercise our pet. Spaying and neutering – a necessary rite of passage in the adoption and rescue world – can slow metabolism, however this is but one factor.

To learn more, check out this video at Pet MD.

How you can become a flab detector:

  • Take a bird’s eye view or your fur-baby. Does the body taper below the ribcage or does the entire length between the shoulders and tail look like an overstuffed cannelloni?

  • Gently feel along the side of the animal’s chest. You should feel the ribs WITHOUT having to pinch an inch.

  • Have your vet do a thorough exam including body mass index (BMI).

Then, a few steps to keep Tabby trim and Baxter buff:

  • Discuss diet options with your vet. He or she may recommend a high-protein/fiber, low-fat blend.

  • Feed your pet an appropriate amount for his/her size/breed and age. UNDERFEEDING can result in malnutrition.

  • Feed your pet a pre-measured amount of food at the same time every day. Controlling your pet’s intake is difficult with an “open feeding” system.

  • For dogs, walk for at least 15 minutes TWICE per day. For any pet, provide regular, vigorous playtime for extra exercise, mental stimulation and to build your interspecies bond.

So, now that we’re done with the important stuff . . .

This dog walks into a bar with a cat on its head . . .