Obesity in Pets -- The Two Keys to Getting Your Pet Fit

Introducing "The Fat Gap"

Let’s face it.  We're seeing more and more overweight people every day. It shouldn’t be surprising, then, to learn that our pets are overweight, too. In fact, estimates of the number of obese cats and dogs are as high as 50% or more. However, the percentage of pet owners who think their pet’s weight is just fine is even higher, nearly 90%! That discrepancy has come to be known as “the fat gap.” An appropriate name, don’t you think?

While a pudgy pet may be cuddly and sometimes even cute, the truth is he’s terribly unhealthy.  Honestly, we should think of obesity as an illness and a very real threat to our pet’s health and longevity. All that extra fat dramatically increases his risk of everything from diabetes, liver failure and joint pain to heart disease, respiratory problems and cancer.  If we truly care about our pets – and of course we do! – then we need to get serious about their weight.

If you’re not sure your dog or cat is overweight, here’s the test: you should be able to feel her ribs through a thin layer of skin; and you should see a true waist when viewing her from above, and a “tucked” belly when viewing her from the side. If you see none of the above, it’s time to act.

Simple Steps to a Healthy Weight --Start with Diet

To keep it simple, there are two keys to helping your pet lose weight: diet and exercise.

A HEALTHIER DIET

Obesity is usually just a matter of overfeeding. Notice I said “overfeeding,” not “overeating.”  After all, for the most part, we, the “feeders,” are the ones who control the amount of food our pet eats; and many times we are the ones who need to change our habits. Are we giving him too many snacks? too many table scraps? Are we unable to resist his adorable puppy-dog eyes?  If so, it’s time to practice some tough love.

There are several ways to improve your feeding habits. If you find change difficult, begin with simple steps: reduce the number of snacks and treats, or break those biscuits in half; reward your pet with a hug or a playful romp rather than a treat; have her eat all meals and treats from her food dish; and when it’s your dinner time, put her in another room.

To get more serious, keep a food journal (the results may surprise you!); weigh his daily ration; for treats, offer him fresh fruit and vegetables, cheese and bits of cooked chicken; try giving him smaller, more frequent meals, removing uneaten food after about 30 minutes; and for the truly committed, try making some of your own snacks! We’ve given you a head start by sharing a couple of recipes that will beat most commercial pet treats when it comes to yummy and healthy.

Increase Exercise

Finally, be sure your pet is getting enough exercise. If you're a dog parent, take him on longer walks or, if your schedule allows, add a walk to your daily routine. Go to a dog park where he can romp with his buddies. Just be sure to check him for fleas and ticks before you go in the house.

Outdoor cats are probably getting enough of a workout, but indoor cats can be short on vigorous exercise. If yours loves to roughhouse, or enjoys chasing a feather on a stick or the light from a laser pointer, go for it! If you want less effort on your part, you can buy an electronic version of the hanging feather, or an automated laser cat toy, or even a motorized remote control mouse (really?!?). Just Google “electronic toys for cats” and you’ll find hundreds.

Remember:  obesity is a serious health issue and truly threatens not only your pet’s quality of life but her longevity.  Think of your efforts to help her lose weight as a precious gift of life and health. You may also be giving yourself the gift of extra years with your treasured friend.

Recipes for Healthy Pets

Carrot Cookies (recipe taken from Paleo Dog, by Jean Hofve, D.V.M.)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup organic coconut oil
  • 2 organic, pasture-raised eggs
  • ½ cup organic unsulfured molasses
  • 2 cups organic coconut flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
  • Pinch of Himalayan or Celtic sea salt
  • 2 cups steamed, mashed carrots (or baked or steamed and mashed sweet potatoes)

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Grease a baking sheet or line a baking sheet with oiled parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix the coconut oil, eggs, and molasses.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the coconut flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder, and salt.
  4. Gradually add the mashed carrots (or sweet potatoes) and the oil-egg mixture to the dry ingredients. Mix well to form a dough.
  5. Drop by bite-size spoonfuls onto the baking sheet. Bake for 12 minutes, or until browned.

Fishy Snacks (recipe from rodalenews.com)

Cats and dogs will both love these fishy treats!

Ingredients:

  • 1 15-oz can of mackerel
  • ½ to 1 cup whole grain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

Directions: 

  1. Mash the mackerel up in a bowl—juice, bones, skin, and all.
  2. Add the baking powder and as much flour as it takes to make a thick dough. Spread it out about ¼-inch thick on an oiled cookie sheet or silicone liner, using a knife or pizza cutter to score it into small squares.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes. Once cooked, break into squares, and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.