Pet obesity is becoming increasingly common. In the US, The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) found approximately 53% of cats and 55% of dogs were overweight or obese in 2010.

As a general rule of thumb, your pet is at a healthy weight if the ribs are easily felt, stomach doesn’t sag and the waist is easily noted when viewed from above. Your pet is overweight if ribs are difficult to feel under the fat, stomach sags, back is broad and flat and the waist is barely visible or absent. If you feel your pet might be overweight, your best bet is to take them to their vet for a screening.

Those extra few pounds do more than provide extra fluff. It places unnecessary burden on their joints and organs as well as put them at high risk for: osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, respiratory disorders, hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease and many forms of cancer, according to the APOP.

Ever wonder what those pounds would equate to if Fido or Fluffy was a person?

Obese Cat (ideal weight 10 lbs) – 19 pounds is analogous to:

A 5’4” female adult weighing 276 lbs (131 lbs over maximum normal weight of 145 lbs)
A 5’9” male weighing 321 lbs. (152 lbs. over maximum normal weight of 169 lbs)

Obese Dog (ideal weight 20-22 lb) – 48 lbs is analogous to:

A 5’4” female adult weighing 317 lbs (172 lbs over maximum normal weight of 145 lbs)
A 5’9” male weighing 368 lbs. (199 lbs over maximum normal weight of 169 lbs)

This data is from The Association for Pet Obesity

What’s causing this trend?
In addition to over-feeding, over-treating and under-exercising, slightly overweight pets are becoming the new ‘normal’. In 2009, the APOP reported that veterinarians noted 44% of their dogs and cats patients were overweight – when just 17% of pet owners would have considered their pets overweight. That means only 40% of overweight pets have owners who, first, recognize there is a problem with their pets’ weight, and then take necessary, life saving measures.

What to do if you have an overweight pet

First, it’s important not to starve your pet —significantly reducing the amount of food they’re consuming may create nutritional deficiencies, and in cats, it can cause Fatty Liver Disease. It’s important to feed your pet a high quality diet, like an Honest Kitchen recipe, give your dog lots of love and exercise while limiting treats.

“I believe dogs, like humans, benefit most from eating a diet consisting of a wide variety of whole, fresh and unprocessed ingredients,” said Dr. Ernie Ward, founder of the APOP. “If our ultimate goal is to prevent disease, what we eat and feed today becomes the foundation of our future. There is no better way to sustain health than by combining an optimal diet with daily aerobic exercise.”

In terms of diet, there are several approaches to managing obesity in pets. Conventionally, low fat foods have been used with some success – our recipes Verve™ and Zeal™ are both naturally low in fat at 8.5%.

A newer, alternative approach has been to limit carbohydrate intake to help achieve & maintain a healthy body weight. This is surprisingly, a logical choice for a canine – most people agree now that dog’s GI tracts are not designed to process an overload of processed ingredients or an excess of grain. Embark™ and Love™ are very high protein & fat with low carbohydrate content – ideal for maintaining lean body mass in more active dogs.

Cats have no biological need for grains as they are true carnivores. The Honest Kitchen has two grain-free and low carbohydrate foods for adult cats, Prowl™ and Grace™.

You should also restrict the amount of treats given each day. Reserve treats for rewards only and perhaps just one at bedtime. If you are training a pet, use vegetables such as baby-carrots, broccoli, celery, and other crunchy healthy treats. The Honest Kitchen’s Pecks™, for dogs, contain just .6 calorie per treat and our Wishes™, for dogs and cats, are 100% pure dehydrated haddock – which is high in protein and low in fat with virtually no carbohydrates.

Remember that a tired dog is a happy dog. You should strive for at least 30 minutes of brisk activity per day. For your feline friends, try playing with feather-dancers, remote-controlled toys or play “find the food.” Divide your cat’s food into small soy sauce bowls and distribute them around your house. This will force lazy cats to get moving.

Check out some other articles on pet obesity and proper pet nutrition:
Fighting Pet Obesity
A Moderate Approach to Natural Pet Nutrition
Feeding a Balanced Diet: Ratios of Fat, Protein and Carbs

© 2013 Lucy Postins & The Honest Kitchen This article may only be copied with prior written permission from the company. Reproductions must include credit to the author and a link to this website.