Are you able to resist those puppy dog eyes begging for food scraps at the kitchen table? Obesity is a serious condition that can shorten the life of your dog or cat. Many pet owners fail to make the connection between their pet’s weight and a myriad of medical conditions. Veterinary nutritionists estimate about 25 percent of all domestic pets in the United States are obese. One study indicated as many as 40% of our pets are overweight. Some people create overweight pets for their own psychological reasons, or because they themselves are overweight.

Pictured is Pepper, a 5 year old Schnauzer. His owners took him to a veterinarian requesting Pepper be euthanized for the sole reason that the dog was OVERWEIGHT. Instead the vet got the owners to give up custody and contacted Loving All Animals, a local animal welfare group, to save Pepper from this fate. Pepper proved to be sweet boy who loves to socialize with humans and dogs, but his “chubby” appearance is an obstacle to adoption. Pepper is on a diet, has lost 10 pounds so far, and becoming more active every day. He is in a foster home, but would love to find a permanent home where he can continue with “Doggie Weight Watchers”. Anyone interested in adopting Pepper can call (760) 776-9397.

Here are some of the key medical ailments that result from pet obesity. HORMONAL ABNORMALITIES such as diabetes, underactive thyroid, and Cushing’s disease can develop. ORTHOPEDIC PROBLEMS are common and often involve ligament damage and a variety of knee and back problems. Dogs with short legs such as Dachshunds and Basset Hounds are particularly prone to back conditions. ARTHRITIS, INTERVERTEBRAL DISC DISEASE, HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE, HEART DISEASE, CONSTIPATION, RESPIRATORY DIFFICULTY are the same list of ailments that affect overweight people. Inactivity and a bad disposition from the discomfort make for an unhappy animal. Obese pets accumulate excessive medical bills and have a substantially shorter life span.

How do you tell for sure if your pet is overweight? Fifteen to 20 percent body fat is considered ideal. Your veterinarian is your best expert to consult, particularly to rule out any medical issues. You can also do a spot check at home by viewing your dog from overhead and an hourglass shape is ideal. In overweight dogs the abdomen plumps out from the side. He may waddle when he walks. You can also feel for his ribs placing your thumbs on the spike half way down the back and sliding your hands gently, and if you can’t feel his ribs underneath a thin layer of fat it’s time to take action.

The solution is a simple one that dieting humans have always heard: cut back on food and high calorie treats, and increase exercise! Eliminate free feeding where the pet has access to food at all times. If you have multiple pets, feed them separately and pick up pet bowls. Your veterinarian may prescribe a weight loss food for pets 15 percent or more over the ideal body weight. To avoid gastrointestinal woes when you switch to a low-calorie diet food, mix the old food with the new and gradually reduce the proportion of the original food. Everyone in the household needs to be committed to the new plan and not sneak treats on the side. AVOID CRASH DIETS AND CONSULT WITH YOUR VETERINARIAN FOR SEVERE CASES.

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As a general rule, you should avoid feeding your pet human food. But there some healthy snacks you can have on hand for your dog….Carrots, apple slices without the seeds, cottage cheese, grilled or boiled chicken (boneless), hard- boiled egg slices, pumpkin (cooked or from a can), broccoli, and green beans.

For cats, often the problem is a low-quality cat food with an overabundance of unbalanced cheaper proteins which the body converts and stores as fat. Switch to a higher quality cat food, and supplement canned cat food with grated carrots and zucchini. Consult with your vet or a specialty pet food shops for better brands.

Redirect your begging animal to other activities. Take your dog to the dog park where he can romp with others. Early risers are at Coachella Valley dog parks at 5:00 am avoiding the heat. Take him for a walk on a leash. Dogs (and cats) love to get a massage. Practice an obedience command. Look up training techniques online, or arrange for a professional trainer to come in and do obedience training. Brush his coat. Play a game. Fetch is a favorite game for dogs but can be taught to cats as well. Get moving!

For additional assistance check these websites www.healthypet.com and www.stopcanineobesity.com. Overweight animals is a behavioral problem of people, not a medical problem of pets. Your dog or cat is not the one opening the refrigerator door! Contact jmcafee7@verizon.net

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