Pet Obesity: Is Yours at Risk?

Studies show nearly half of our dogs and cats are overweight or obese, but these healthy habits might help keep your pet from becoming an alarming statistic.

By Perri O. Blumberg
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    Is your pet at risk?

    People aren't the only over-eaters in America: The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) found that 56 percent of dogs and 53 percent of cats are either overweight or obese. Recently, we were touched by the story of Meow, a 39-pound cat who died in a shelter from obesity complications. His heartbreaking situation is a solemn reminder that pet obesity can lead to kidney disease, cancer, high blood pressure, Type 2 Diabetes, decreased life expectancy, and more. Next: See how you can work to reverse the trend for a healthier, happier pet.

    Know your label language.

    According to the FDA, ingredients must be listed in descending order of weight on all nutrition labels. But just because meat may be listed first, that doesn't mean it's healthiest: Water counts toward its weight, and dehydrated meat products can have adequate protein and minerals. Check with your vet to about what your pet needs.

    If your pet is overweight, look for "light," "lite," or "low-calorie" foods, terms which are regulated by the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Don't be fooled by "gourmet" or "premium." Finally, watch for false or unsafe claims around "complete," "balanced," "100% nutritious," without AAFCO approvals.

    Opening the back door isn't exercise.

    A dog's weight is determined by diet (60 percent) and a meaningful 40 percent exercise. (Cats are 90 percent diet, 10 percent exercise.) Many dogs need between 30 and 60 minutes of active movement each day, just like you do! The more you play with your pet, the more you both benefit.


    Trick your cat into moving.

    Unlike dogs, cats don't need a rigorous exercise routine, but quick bursts of movement like jumping up, or racing to grab a treat, help to keep your cats healthy. Vets recommend spending at least five minutes a day, two or three times a day, playing with your cat.


    Practice portion control.

    Stop eyeballing your pet's meals, and measure out each bowl based on the serving size listed (like you do, or should do, for yourself). You can add more or cut back as needed to maintain your pet's weight. Log your pet's food intake, and next time you visit the vet you've got a complete record. Not sure how many calories a day your pet needs? This chart from APOP gives you an idea.

    Don't go overboard with treats.

    Instead of using food as a reward, try other activities or toys that your pet enjoys. But if you allow snacks, use a treats jar with a limited amount inside. Fill it daily, ideally in the morning. One person in the house should be in charge of doling out treats. When the jar is empty... give belly rubs.

    Sources: FDA.gov, Rodale.com, Petobesityprevention.com, vetstreet.com, rachaelraymag.com, ConsumerReports.Org

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    • I <3 kittys

      I didn’t know that