A fat epidemic: What pets eat depends on what we give them

February 2, 2011

Bigger portions and less active lives are causing an epidemic of obesity in people and in pets. But getting the extra weight off your dog or cat isn’t as hard as it is getting it off yourself. Dr. Marty Becker has the story in this week’s Pet Connection newspaper feature:

An overweight pet is prone to a host of related issues, including diabetes, joint, ligament and tendon difficulties, and breathing and heart challenges. Overweight cats can even develop skin problems from not being able to groom themselves properly. The overall impact on comfort and longevity can be dire.

But the truth is that it’s not as difficult to trim down pets as it might be to fight your own battles with the bulge. What pets eat depends on what we give them. And although we might groan at the thought of exercise, our pets are always up for a brisk walk, a game of fetch or some play with a toy on a string. They love to move, especially if we’re moving with them.

Simply put: There’s no excuse for an overweight pet. Especially not today, with veterinarians well-armed not only with advice but with special foods that can help you trim the excess from your pet. These products were well-represented at the North American Veterinary Conference, which recently wrapped up its 25th annual convention for veterinarians in Orlando, Fla.

Healthy pets have some padding on them, but a little padding is plenty. Rub your hands over the ribs of your dog or cat. The skin should move easily back and forth, and you should be able to feel the ribs. Your pet should have a definable “waist” at the bottom of the rib cage. Take a look from the side: If your pet looks pregnant, he’s fat.

One particularly important tip:

Crash diets aren’t good for pets, especially not for fat cats, who can develop a fatal liver problem if forced to reduce too quickly. A pet doesn’t get fat overnight, and he shouldn’t be forced to change course any more rapidly. What you’ll need to do is change your pet’s eating and exercise habits gradually. Your veterinarian is your partner and resource in this lifestyle change, so enlist her aid early.

Get the rest of the skinny on fat pets, and how to help them,  here!

And from Dr. Becker and Mikkel Becker, the inside story on tabby cats, and tips on checking your dog’s pulse, in this week’s “The Buzz.

Filed under: pets, connected,veterinary medicine — Pet Connection Staff @ 5:02 am


  1. Might I also add that indoor play can be done to keep Fido fit and trim in the colder and rainier months. No reason not to keep active. Great piece and reminder here.

    Comment by Carol Bryant — February 3, 2011 @ 5:21 am

  2. Preaching to the choir, possibly… In my experience, with my own dogs, and at least several dozen clients over the last decade, the commercial food vets sell that are marketed for weight-loss are largely bags of filler (corn husks, rice hulls, etc. Read the ingredient list). Most of the overweight dogs that came to me for help were already on one of the “diet” dog foods, and hadn’t lost much, if any weight.

    Based on personal experience and copious reading I’ve done over the years, I believe dogs do not digest processed grains very well (dogs on 100% commercial dog food tend to have voluminous poops, due to the undigested material, euphemistically called ‘fiber,’ that they aren’t able to breakdown/absorb as nutrition.

    In 2000 I began feeding a diet that’s primarily protein-based (raw meat), and my dogs began losing weight without any noticeable increase in hunger. Most surprisingly, the dogs I have switched to a primarily meat-based diet have enjoyed much greater health, as a result (I haven’t taken any of the 12 dogs that have lived with me since 2000 to a veterinarian for an illness).


    Comment by Dee Green — February 3, 2011 @ 5:01 pm

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