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Calling All Dog Owners -- Fido Is Too Fat

Calling all dog owners! Don’t you want your best friend to be with you for a long, long time? I know you do, but if that’s true, then what’s the deal?

In 2008, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) found that 44% of dogs and 57% of cats were estimated to be overweight or obese. Now, in 2011, only three years later, the same group finds that 55% of dogs and 53% of cats are overweight or obese.

First, I want to congratulate the cat owners. Jolly good work guys!

But dog owners? Hello? Is everyone out to lunch—with their dogs?

I understand the sweet looks, the wagging tails, the insatiable appetites, but there is no excuse for over-feeding a fat dog.

Lest you think me a harsh, I, too, bend the rules sometimes. For example, when I interviewed a veterinarian from Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine recently and she said that all adult dogs are supposed to get 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise twice a day, I thought yeah, right, We don’t all live in Southern California. 

Mine get twenty minutes tops--if they are lucky. I have bills to pay. They don’t need to have legs like Madonna’s, they just need to be healthy.

However, despite that fact that both my and my dog’s rear ends could use a little more action, at least I feed my dogs the appropriate amount of food. You know why? Because I scoop it out myself. I may not be able to say no to a piece of birthday cake, but I do have control over how much kibble I dole out.

Plus, I feed them good food. No, not fancy gourmet food—and I certainly don’t cook it, but my vet told me how much each dog is supposed to get, and that’s what they get. It’s not rocket science.

No, I am not a tyrant. Yes, I give them treats--often. Usually kibble. I don’t buy special treats for them because they get fired up about kibble. I don’t need them to see them get fired up over caviar—then I’ll feel pressure to buy caviar. I don’t need that.

So, how does your dog add up? Looking down at him, can you see his waistline? (That’s the part after the rib cage before the hips.) If there’s no clear indentation—a waist—then that’s a big problem. You might think, OK he’s a little overweight.

No, if you can’t see a waist that’s obese in the dog world. A little overweight is when you can’t see--or feel in furry dogs--the rib cage. The sausage look is obese. That means heart disease, osteoarthritis, a lot of things that is going to make you feel sad when it gets diagnosed--in your heart and in your wallet.

But dog owners, this is OK. Don’t despair. We Americans are terrific dieters. We excel at dieting. We eat too much, we diet, we loose weight, and then we do it all over again--and then again. Just consider your dog’s waistline and what you are doing about it. And then if you are still having trouble getting motivated, think about the cat people. They are doing it way better than you are…. Meow!

Jennifer Quasha is most recently the co-author of "Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Dog's Life: 101 Stories about the Ages and Stages of our Canine Companions" and "Chicken Soup of the Soul: My Cat's Life: 101 Stories about the Ages and Stages of our Feline Family Members". Check out her website at www.jenniferquasha.com.