By Janet McAfee
Many Americans still struggle with maintaining “social distancing” from their refrigerators after isolation during the pandemic. They may be tempted to grab another comforting treat for their pet, giving in to those pleading looks. Out of the habit and back to work, folks may have reduced walks and activities. It becomes too easy to grab another pet treat while we indulge on snack food for ourselves.
Obesity in pets is a serious problem in this country. Experts estimate as many as 35% of the domestic pets in the United States are overweight. VETRINARIANS REPORT THAT OBESITY IS THE MOST COMMON HEATH THREAT TO OUR PETS. Denial leads many people to be shocked when their vet tells them their picture-perfect pet needs to lose weight. In a nation where over half the human population is overweight, it is not surprising that denial is a typical reaction to being told Fluffy or Fido needs to go on a diet. Typical responses may include, “My husband doesn’t listen to me about how much to feed” or “It keeps my dog happy to get lots of treats!”
Most people who over feed their pets love their animals. However, some are victims of neglect, such as Annie pictured here. Some time ago, this stray Terrier was brought to Loving All Animals by a Good Samaritan who found her wandering the streets, badly matted and struggling to walk from excessive weight. Shockingly, when her owner was located, they made it clear they no longer wanted Annie and suggested she be “put to sleep”. Loving All Animals had a different plan, and Annie was groomed, vetted, put on dog weight loss food, and readied for adoption. Several months later, a much slimmer Annie was spotted happily marching in the Animal Samaritans’ Walk for the Animals with her wonderful new mom. Susan and Annie promote the joy of activities and exercising together.
There are life threatening consequences to overweight dogs and cats. These include increased risk of diabetes, arthritis, hypertension, heart disease, tumors, and cancer. They are prone to orthopedic problems such as intervertebral disc disease, particularly true of long backed breeds such as Dachshunds. This condition can result in paralysis. Just like people, overweight animals are more prone to body inflammation, high cholesterol, pancreatitis, torn ligaments, knee problems, and many other conditions.
Set goals now for a better diet and more exercise for you, Fido, and Fluffy. We need to repay them for their love and loyalty with more time and attention. Better health for them also means fewer veterinary bills for us. Play fetch or tag with them in your backyard. Take a walk with Fido on a leash to a new location or pet friendly venue. Find some videos online about practicing yoga with your dog (called doga). There is a new walking calculator app called “Workout Your Walkies” that tells you if your pup is getting enough walking for its age and breed.
Get a wire cat toy with a feather on the end available at all pet stores and enjoy Fluffy’s antics. Cats enjoy playing with empty cardboard boxes. They can play endlessly with balls made out of tin foil.
Hold firm pet parents and don’t give in to the sad begging face under the dining room table. Research healthy weight loss diets. The staff at local shops Bones and Scones and Pet Oasis can help you select nutritious pet foods that can help them lose weight. Figure out a way to stop Grandma from giving your pet too many treats while you are at work. Don’t FREE FEED leaving excess food available all day. Feed your animals once in the morning and once at dinner time. Slowly reduce portions. Remember that obese pets live an average of 2 years less than those of average weight. Keeping them fit and healthy makes you both healthier and happy!
If you are currently “dogless” or seeking a special purring feline, the list of Inland Empire animal shelters and rescue groups is a great guide for your search. The largest public shelter here is the Coachella Valley Animal Campus in Thousand Palms, www.rcdas.org. If you seek a particular breed of rescue pet, check out www.petfinder.com. Enjoy the companionship and blessings cats and dogs give us every day!