It’s no secret that 30 percent of America is overweight. But many people may not even be aware that their cats and dogs are also overweight.
Of the 41 million pet dogs in this country, about 17 million are either overweight or obese, according to Dr. David Bessler of NYC Veterinary Specialists.
That fat cat or chubby Chihuahua may seem cute and cuddly. But overweight and obese pets, just like overweight and obese people, are at risk for a host of diseases and could be en route to an early grave.
“There are a lot of long-term problems associated with pet obesity,” Bessler said. “Obese pets are at risk for osteoarthritis, heart problems and breathing problems. Overweight dogs and cats have decreased immune systems. It’s difficult to hear the hearts and hear the lungs in fat dogs. And it’s difficult to transport fat dogs around the hospital.”
Overweight cats and dogs are also at risk for diabetes and cancer.
There are two causes of pet obesity: poor dietary habits and a lack of exercise. Certain breeds are at a higher risk for obesity including labs, pugs and Boston terriers, said Bessler.
Many overweight pets will start to show excess belly weight. Dogs, in particular, may sprout bellies that are bigger than their chests, Bessler said.
In some cases, it may be difficult to determine if a pet is overweight. Bessler suggested getting your pet a weigh-in at the vet’s and then working with your vet to put together a diet and exercise plan for your pet if it is overweight.
If excessive snacking is a problem, Bessler said carrots and ice chips make good low-calorie snacks for dogs. Bessler also suggests taking dogs out for daily walks; taking them just outside the door to go to the bathroom doesn’t count. Try buying toys for indoor cats and dogs to keep them busy and help them get a little bit of exercise.
Here are some other statistics to keep in mind when caring for a pet:
— 35 percent of the total pet population is overweight
— Overweight pets are at risk for heart disease, diabetes and arthritis
— One extra pound on a Chihuahua is equal to 38 pounds on an average woman
— One ounce of cheese for a 20-pound dog is equal to a human eating one and a half hamburgers
— One cup of milk for a 10-pound cat is equal to a human eating five chocolate bars