It’s the new year. For many people that means making a New Year’s resolution to lose weight. But what about your canine or feline friends? Several recent studies have found more than 50 percent all pets in the United States are overweight.1 And while their owners may think that that it is cute to have a pudgy pup or kitty, “excess weight in animals, just like in humans, can lead to health problems including joint disorders, heart and respiratory disease, and diabetes,” according to Lisa Germanis, V.M.D, lead shelter veterinarian at the Pennsylvania SPCA. “Obesity is huge health issue facing America’s pets today, causing unnecessary suffering and decreasing a pet’s lifespan,” she said.
To help pet owners keep their pets healthy, the Pennsylvania SPCA offers low-cost veterinary care and vaccine clinics at its Philadelphia headquarters at 350 E. Erie Avenue. Services are available on a walk-in basis.
“The good news is you can control your pet’s diet,” said Dr. Germanis. “Unlike humans, they can’t open the fridge or cabinet to grab a snack or make a fast food run. What pets eat is wholly dependent on what we give them.”
Helping Your Animal Lose Weight the Right Way
Just like with people, diet and exercise are the keys to weight loss in pets. “Your dog or cat didn’t get chubby overnight, so it’s important to realize that slimming down is a process that takes time and should be done gradually,” said Dr. Germanis.
If you are resolved this year to help your pet lose some weight and get into shape, Dr. Germanis offers this advice:
- Talk to your veterinarian. They can help you develop a nutrition program that takes into account your pet’s age, size and breed. They can also rule out any medical reasons for the excess weight.
- Control portions. Read labels and feed according to the manufacturers recommendations. Use a measuring cup to avoid overestimating.
- Cut back on snacks. Get the whole family on board to avoid sneaking extra food, table scraps or treats to your animals which can lead to excess pounds. Treats are OK once in a while. Learn other ways to say “I love you” to your pet other than food rewards.
- Along with changes in diet, animals need exercise. Dogs love getting exercise, especially if they are with their owners. Going for walks or playing fetch are fun ways for both humans and dogs to get exercise. If your dog isn’t used to long walks or runs, build up the time and duration gradually. Just like humans, they can get hurt if they overdo it.
- Cat owners can take advantage of feline’s natural instincts for climbing, pouncing and exploring to keep the cat active. Small, inexpensive or homemade toys can do the trick or buy a climbing tree. Allow your cat to free roam the house.
1 — According to a 2011 study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 53 percent of adult dogs and 55 percent of cats are estimated to be overweight or obese.