How to Help Your Pet Maintain a Healthy Weight

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Pet obesity has become a widespread epidemic for many American pets.  According to the Association of Pet Obesity Prevention, 44% of dogs and 57% of cats in the USA are overweight or obese. Between 2007 and 2008 the number of overweight pets increased by approximately 1-4%.

Older pets are especially prone to weight problems. It is estimated that 52.1% of dogs and 55% of cats over 7 years of age are overweight or obese. According to the second annual National Pet Obesity Day Study, pet owners are increasingly aware of this issue. 71.5% of cat owners and 60% of dog owners with overweight or obese pets identified their dog or cat as having an unhealthy weight.

Health Risks Associated with Obesity

Extra weight can cause profound health problems for your pet. It’s important for pet owners to realize that a dog or cat carrying a few extra pounds is equivalent to a human being 30-50 pounds overweight.

Pets that are overweight or obese are at risk for osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, respiratory disorders, high blood pressure, heart disease and some forms of cancer. More and more pets are developing these disorders as a direct result of obesity. These conditions are usually preventable, but once they develop, can be chronic and incurable.

Extra weight also damages your pet’s tendons, muscles and ligaments, which can lead to arthritis. It is estimated that 25% of overweight dogs develop serious joint issues. If your pet already suffers from a joint disorder, extra weight only increases the problem. In addition, obesity decreases immune function and makes pets more susceptible to viruses and diseases. Digestive disorders can also develop, causing intestinal gas and flatulence.

“Helping your pet maintain a healthy weight is crucial to their quality and length of life,” says Dr. Edward Moser a board certified veterinary nutritionist. “In fact, studies show that limiting your dog’s caloric intake could extend his life.”

Proper nutrition and consistent exercise can work wonders in keeping your pet healthy and happy.

Daily Exercise

Routine exercise can be a fun, enjoyable experience for both you and your pet. The health benefits are well worth the effort. You can play fetch or tag with your dog at a local park, take your dog for a walk around the neighborhood or create an obstacle course in your backyard. You can also help your feline friends get some much-needed exercise by encouraging them to play or chase their favorite toys.

When developing an exercise program, be sure to consider your pet’s age and health status. If your dog is elderly, has health problems or is not used to exercise, start small and build up. Be careful not to over-exercise your pet in warm weather. Since fat acts as an insulator, overweight dogs are especially susceptible to over-heating.

Selecting Healthy Food

Proper nutrition is another important factor in helping your pet slim down. “Since fat has twice as many calories as protein or carbs, it’s important to feed your pet a lowfat, reduced calorie food,” says Dr. Moser. Look for foods that are high in fiber. Fiber helps your pet feel satisfied for longer periods of time and prevents overeating. Grain-free diets that contain lean meat are also a good option.

As a pet parent, your dog or cat is a treasured member of your family. You want them to be a part of your life for as long as possible. That’s why it’s vital to help your pet maintain a healthy weight. Obesity will only decrease both the quantity and quality of your dog or cat’s life. However, regular exercise and proper nutrition can eliminate the threat and dangers of obesity for your furry friend. It’s up to you to make sure your pet maintains a healthy weight and a happy life.

Article by Chanda Leary of Wellness – Natural Food and Treats for Pets. For more information, visit www.wellnesspetfood.com

This is a featured article from Spring 2009 Cutter’s Mill Newsletter. Click Here to download this PDF

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One Comment for “How to Help Your Pet Maintain a Healthy Weight”

  • SNo Gravatar

    My cat was overweight and our vet suggested we not only cut her food down, but also throw each piece of food around the house so she could chase it. It is kind of time consuming, but not too bad if you do it while watching tv, using the computer etc. This helped her lose over 4 pounds in about a year.

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