It's a problem born from kindness but a problem nonetheless. As the Wall Street Journal recently reported, more than half of pet dogs and cats in this country are overweight or obese.
According to experts on the subject, in terms of health dangers a pet who is overweight is similar to a human who smokes. Pet owners spend millions of dollars per year on injuries relating to their pets' weight, and often end up dealing with ligament ruptures, disc problems, joint pains and asthma.
When we ran across this WSJ article, somehow we weren't too surprised to see one of our former clients featured in it! Fridge is a hefty cat weighing in at nearly 30 pounds who we moved from Los Angeles to Florida last summer. His size required us to secure a larger-than-average cat travel crate, but we got him to his destination safely. We were happy to hear how Fridge was doing; he seems as well-loved (and as big) as ever.
The article points out that overweight pets can be a sensitive topic because many vets hesitate to criticize pet owners' feeding habits. When a pet's health is at risk, however, it's important to exercise responsibility and restraint. They can't make good nutrition decisions on their own, so it's up to us to take good care of our furry friends by feeding and exercising them the right amount.
What can you do to ensure that your pet stays fit? Here are a few tips:
-Listen to your vet. Even if he or she is polite, they should tell you if they think your pet is overweight and you should follow their advice about how to handle it.
-Exercise. It's good for you and good for your pet. Go for frequent walks, go to the dog park, or spend a few minutes a day engaging your cat with games and toys.
-Pay attention to serving sizes and labels. You don't have to buy the most expensive pet food, but try to find a variety that works for your pet's digestion and don't overfeed. As the WSJ points out, a few extra pieces of food per day could lead to incremental weight gain, so measure carefully.
-Weigh your pet on a regular basis. It can be tough to tell if your pet is gaining or losing weight, but the scale doesn't lie so keep track of the numbers.
-Use the latest tech tools to your advantage. Some vets have access to software that can figure what's called the Body Condition Score, information that makes it easy to assess your pet. And of course, there are several iPhone apps that make it easy to keep track of the data, as well. Try Pet Phone to graph your pet's weight over time or Pet Nanny, which has a diet section.
-Resist the urge to feed your pet table scraps or too many special treats. Even if your cat or pup comes from a shelter or otherwise heart wrenching situation, don't spoil them with food. Providing love and care means keeping them in good health.
Whether you have a pet move in your future or simply want to keep your companion as happy and spry as possible, it's always a good idea to make good health a priority. Feel free to share your pet health tips here or on our Facebook page!