Is Your Pet overweight?

February 19, 2016

Did you know that KHS has a monthly column in the Kitsap Weekly, “Pets&People”. This column is published on the 3rd Friday of the month.

Is your Pet Overweight?
By Rebekah Johnson

Yes, I’m guilty. I admit it. I’ve seen photos of a “fat cat” trying to play and chuckled or seen an overweight Dachshund waddling past me on the street and giggled.  Recently, there has been an increase in articles and/or photos of pudgy animals going viral on social media with hundreds of comments gushing over “how cute” the overweight creature is. Just yesterday, I stumbled upon a Pinterest board that was dedicated to “funny fat animals.” Our culture has formed the opinion that overweight animals are a joke (maybe we should blame lasagna-eating Garfield?).

All joking aside, excessive weight on your pet is dangerous and should be taken seriously. As with humans, excessive weight can lead to serious health issues in our pets and pet obesity is a problem for the majority of pets in the country.  Cats and dogs carrying extra weight are at a higher risk of developing osteoarthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart and respiratory disease, ligament Injury and kidney disease (just to name some of the primary risks). Overweight animals are also more likely to suffer from different types of cancer and have decreased life expectancy (up to 2.5 years).
You might be troubled by this information, but thinking to yourself, “my pet is not overweight.” Even a little extra weight can compromise your pet’s health and you may not be aware immediately that your pet is beginning to pack on the pounds and is over a healthy weight. I certainly didn’t think my dog was overweight, but I was wrong.

Last year, during a wellness exam, my vet told me my healthy looking pit-bull mix was overweight. I was shocked. She didn’t look overweight to me.  My vet provided me with a scale of how many calories she should be eating and I had been over feeding her by at least 400 calories every day! I think we all know how a few extra calories can add up quickly. Excessive weight is the leading disease affecting our pets and the Association of Pet Obesity Prevention Foundation reports that 58 percent of cats and 53 percent of dogs in the United States are overweight and many owners involved in the study didn’t think their pet was overweight or aware that they were gaining weight.

So, what do you do when your pet is overweight? Dr. Jen Stonequist, Director of Shelter Medicine, at Kitsap Humane Society advises pet owners to “make sure your pet is visiting their veterinarian regularly for wellness exams.” Regular wellness exams allow your vet to spot any potential health and/or weight problems and work with you to nip them in the bud. If your vet does find that your pet is carrying some extra weight, they can work with you to determine an appropriate calorie intake and exercise plan.

During the winter months, it is more difficult to get your dog or cat outside to be active, but regular exercise is important for your pet year-round! Yes, your cat does need regular exercise ‑ just like your dog! Laser pointers are a great way to help your cat get more exercise (my dog also loves chasing the laser pointer around). Make sure to provide your pets with appropriate indoor toys to not only help them exercise, but to help keep them mentally stimulated. It only took my dog a couple months of proper feeding and frequent exercise to get back down to a healthy weight and she has kept it off!
Hefty dogs and “fat cats” are not funny; they are at risk of serious health issues and shorter lives. Don’t be the pet owner in denial. Help your pet live a longer and healthier life; take your pet in for annual wellness exams and follow the diet plan prescribed by your vet.