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It’s no secret that Americans are getting fat; you can’t turn a page or flick a channel without seeing some new obesity study or diet plan. What might surprise you is that our bad habits are rubbing off on our pets, whose bellies have expanded along with everyone else’s.

Here’s food for thought- An estimated 45% of dogs and 58% of cats are overweight or obese. Pet obesity is the number one cause of pet illness and injury in the U.S. today. Since having an overweight pet has become the norm not the exception, when a dog or cat is in the ideal weight class they are often perceived as “too skinny” or “sick”.

Here’s some perspective from the folks at the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP):
A typical 90-pound female Labrador Retriever is equivalent to a 186-pound 5’4” inch female while a 12-pound Yorkshire Terrier is similar to 223 pounds on the same woman.

A 15-pound cat is equivalent to a 225-pound 5’9” male and a 20-pound feline equals 300 pounds on that man. Each pound on a cat is equal to about 13 pounds on the average female and 15 pounds on a male.”

So let’s get down to why our pets are so fat. Want the short answer? It’s you. If you don’t feed your pets too much, they won’t eat too much, simple as that. If you don’t give them your table scraps, they won’t beg for scraps. If you don’t hand out treats every time they make a pit stop, they won’t pack on pounds like a bear for the winter. We all know you love your pets and want them to be happy, but an overweight pet can be subject to:

  1. Osteoarthritis 
  2. High blood pressure
  3. Type 2 diabetes (cats)
  4. Insulin resistance (dogs)
  5. Kidney disease
  6. Cancer 
  7. High cholesterol
  8. Respiratory disease
  9. Skin disease
  10. Increased surgical complications

You could actually be “loving” your pet to an early grave!

Chew on this fattening factoid from Dr. Ernie Ward, a veterinarian with APOP.

“A premium pig ear given to a 40-pound dog is like drinking six 12-ounce regular colas. No one would sit down and drink six sodas at one time, yet that’s exactly what we’re doing when we give our pets these snacks. Even a single small dog bone treat given to a 10-pound dog, is no different than a person eating two chocolate doughnuts. The truth is, we rarely stop at one dog treat. Give a few each day and you’ve fed the equivalent of a dozen doughnuts. No wonder we’re seeing such high obesity rates.”
The solution is simple:

1-    Start by controlling portion size. Know how many calories a day your pet needs and adjust your portions accordingly. Of course your dog is going to look at you like “that’s all?” and give you the “I’m still hungry” puppy eyes because someone (hint: you) hooked them on a Thanksgiving-sized portion twice a day. They will adjust soon enough.

2-    Also, cut back on treats. Replace your junk food treats with carrots, yes carrots, and other healthy, low-calorie treats. Each pet is different. Not only are they good for them, they also give that satisfactory crunch that dogs crave.

3-    Diet alone isn’t enough for pets, they need exercise too; luckily most pets make     great companions when it comes to getting outside and getting in shape. They are always ready to go, never complain, and will almost always wear you out first.

We know it’s hard not to feel a little guilty when they’re staring at you from beneath the table, so don’t just take our word for it. Here are some sites to help you figure out if that fuzzball over there needs to start on a South Beach diet.  

Ideal Weight Ranges

Pet Food Calories

Ingredients to Stay Away From

Ingredients to Look For / Issue 114 - September 2018
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