With an estimated majority (54%) of U.S. dogs and cats overweight or obese, but with nearly all of their owners tragically blind to the issue (93% dog, 88% cat), the sweeping lack of fundamental awareness is perpetuating a costly, painful and deadly pet health epidemic that is almost completely avoidable.
Obesity is said to be a condition that has the greatest collective negative impact on pet health. Recognizing and being knowledgeable of the problem—and taking proactive counter-measures each day—is nothing short of an imperative lest our nation's pet community continue to suffer distressing, pricey and even lethal conditions linked to obesity, including Osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, joint injury, various forms of cancer, and decreased life expectancy.
- Get outside: Taking your dog outdoors will trigger its natural play instincts. Running, jumping and chasing are natural ways to energize your pet, burn calories and boost metabolism. A new breed of outdoor enclosures also allows cats to run, roam, prance and pounce freely in fresh air. When outdoor play just isn't an option, there are a number of motorized animal treadmills on the market today that are entirely enjoyable and effective.
- Be consistent: Set exercise goals for your pet that are manageable for your schedule but that establish a consistent routine. A moderate level of exercise each and every day is key for fostering a healthy and fit pet. For example, a 20-minute walk every day is more beneficial for your pet's health than an hour long walk twice a week. For both dogs and cats, keep a set of toys and laser pointer handy for an energized and sustained play session, either indoors or out, at least once daily.
- Boost blood flow: While a leisurely stroll with your dog is better than no exercise at all, a fast-paced walk will elevate the dog's heart rate, improve its cardiovascular function and turn calories into fuel rather than fat. A multi-story cat climber or "tree" with strategically placed low-cal treats or play toys can readily get kitty jumping from level to level and its heart pumping in kind.
- Log on and learn: As with humans, Body Mass Index (BMI) can be a reliable indicator of an animal's body fat levels and serves as a free and easy way to screen your pet for weight concerns that may lead to health problems. One need only log on to the Internet to find freely accessible dog and cat BMI Calculators as well as Feline Calorie Counters to determine how many calories your cat needs to help manage or avoid an obese condition.
- Measure the meals: Even for animals, dieting and weight maintenance is all about portion control. Feed your pet using a designated measuring cup so that you know exactly how much food they're consuming each day. If you still aren't getting the desired results, call the pet food company for dietary recommendations to ensure you aren't over-feeding—especially as dietary requirements change as a pet ages and becomes less active. Automated pet feeding systems are also helpful. These tech tools utilize a wireless tag attached to a pet's collar to regulate and monitor one or more pet's food intake to ensure the pet isn't eating too much or too little at once or throughout the day—also keeping multiple pets away from each other's food.
- Skip the scraps: Your pet is likely smaller than you. So while a small scrap of table food might seem insignificant, it can be a huge portion for your pet. Instead of giving your pet random table scraps, try offering it raw veggies like baby carrots. Your pet will be happy it received a treat and will avoid a belly-busting calorie-bomb.
*The above should not be construed as medical or veterinary advice. Individuals should consult with their pet's own physician regarding any fitness, exercise and/or nutrition regime.