Obesity on the Rise Among Cats and Dogs

In this day and age one can hardly turn on the television or open a magazine or newspaper without being reminded about the obesity epidemic confronting Americans.  As humans’ waistlines have been expanding, so have their companion animals.  What is behind the “broadening” of our furry friends?

A recent cover article in Business Week magazine detailed the rapid expansion of the pet industry and declared that the pampering of our pets has gotten out of hand.  While we don’t agree that taking better care of our best friends equates to over-pampering, their may be some truth here.  Treats used to be reserved for training purposes and special occasions – once a day at most.  Now there are so many treats on the market for dogs and cats it’s hard to resist not trying each new and tastier-than-ever-before variety.  Dogs are exceptional at plying their two-legged friends into reaching for the treat jar, and even those aloof cats have learned how to “beg” for treats.  What’s more, many pet guardians use treats to assuage their guilt of leaving their friends home alone all day. 

Another challenge in the battle of the bulge is the disconnect between perception and reality experienced by many people regarding their own weight and their companion’s weight as well.  According to a 2006 study by Pfizer Animal Health, 47 percent of veterinarians felt their canine patients were obese, while only 17 percent of dog owners agreed.  A study by the National Consumers League found the same to be true of the way humans perceive their own weight:  12% of those interviewed considered themselves obese, while actual body mass index calculations showed that 34% of the participants were actually obese. 


It’s time to listen to your veterinarian and take a good, honest look at your four legged friend.  See our archived article about “Weight Management for Dogs and Cats” for further information about evaluating your companion’s waistline.   

Reduce the number of treats and increase the play and quality time.  15 minutes of chase the fuzzy, feathery toy around the house is a great way to connect with your kitty and give him some exercise.  Some favorites: Kitty Lure Chaser and Catnip Pounce and Play.  For fetch crazy dogs there is nothing like the Chuck It, or for Frisbee lovers: Orbee-Tuff Zoom Flyer or the Flying Squirrel.  For smaller dogs, try a Babble Ball or Extra Small Squeaker Balls for indoor games.

Feed better food and less of it.  Most cats do not digest grains well, so a grain-free food is best.  Many dogs can handle some grain in their diet, as long as the PROTEIN source is of animal origin.  See “What You Need to Know About Your Pet’s Food” and  Evaluating Canned and Dry Food” for more information.  Feeding 2 or 3 meals is much better for your dog or cat’s health than leaving food out free-choice – both for their weight and for their long-term health.  In addition, digestive enzymes help your dog or cat get the most from the food they eat. 

Good, healthy food and exercise are the simplest and best solutions for both you and your companion in avoiding the obesity epidemic.

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