Is Your Pet Obese?

A pudgy dog or cat isn't cute -- in fact, excess weight can be downright dangerous

If you haven’t given your pet’s waistline much thought, you probably should. A recent study found that more than half of dogs and cats are considered overweight, yet nearly half of owners have no clue their four-legged friend needs to drop the extra pounds.

Sure, you can try coaxing your pet onto a bathroom scale for a weekly weigh-in, but there are easier ways to figure out if your four-legged friend is obese. Look down at your dog or cat while it’s standing -- there should be a “waist,” or definite indentation behind the ribs. You should also be able to easily feel its ribs by gently pressing on them.

If your pet is lean, give yourself a pat on the back and keep up the good work. If not, it's time to change some unhealthy habits, starting with the amount of food your pet gets. Ideally, you should feed however much it takes for your dog or cat to maintain a lean body. Not sure what that is? Check the food label for serving size recommendations. 

When reducing the amount of your pet's food, proceed slowly, in increments of less than 10%. Switch to low-calorie treats like apples, oranges, carrots, broccoli, potatoes and green beans. And ask your veterinarian about changing to a diet formula of your current pet food.

Next, get your pet moving. Take dogs for walks, play fetch, go to dog parks -- whatever keeps you active together. Engage your cat in play -- there are plenty of great interactive toys in pet stores or try making your own.

Whenever you're tempted to skip the morning walk in favor of sleeping in, remember this: Keeping your dog or cat lean its entire life is the single-most important factor proven to increase its lifespan, says Dr. Laura Eirmann, a board-certified veterinary nutritionist at Oradell Animal Hospital in Paramus, N. J. Fit pets also have fewer problems with knee ligaments, breathing, fatigue, heatstroke, diabetes, joints, heart disease, the immune system and the pancreas. Translation: Good nutrition and frequent exercise can give you and your best friend a richer, longer life together.

Karen B. Gibbs is a writer and editor based in Lacombe, La.

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