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Fighting Pet Obesity

Tips for Getting Your Dog or Cat to a Healthly Weight


Two years ago, a dachshund named Obie came into the spotlight when he tipped the scales at 77 pounds. That’s more than twice the size of an average dachshund. Last week, a newly slim Obie made an appearance on the Today show—he dropped more than 23 pounds. His owner Nora Vanatta helped Obie lose weight by good old-fashioned exercise, combined with a high-fiber, low-carb diet. According to Vanatta, Obie had a difficult time adjusting to his new diet because he wasn’t fond of dog food. His previous owners were feeding him only people food. He used to have to wear a special harness to avoid injuring his large stomach when he walked. He now has two meals a day and lots of exercise and is getting closer to his ideal weight.

According to the 2014 Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 53 percent of dogs and 58 percent of cats in the United States are overweight or obese. Compare that with the early 1970s, when less than 12 percent of pets had a weight problem. Obesity can lead to such diseases as osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and many forms of cancer. Fat in the abdomen can cause labored breathing that leads pets to have increased anesthetic complications. Activity can be difficult for very overweight pets and you will very often see a decrease in heat tolerance and stamina. In addition, studies show that lean pets have an increased life span of up to two years.

The first step in controlling pet obesity is identifying that it exists in your pet. Experts say that it is better to look at the appearance of each animal rather than at the weight of the animal. Dogs tend to carry their fat behind their front legs, along their back and at the base of their tail. Cats carry their fat along their lower abdomen.

Why are pets overweight? The answer is the same for pets as well as for people: too many calories and not enough exercise. If you determine that your pet is overweight, your veterinarian can work with you to develop a weight loss plan for your pet. The first obvious step is to eliminate table scraps and limit the treats. A high-quality pet food is essential, so be sure to read the ingredients. “By-products” are not as good as the real thing. Some experts believe a wet food only diet is the way to go as dry food has a higher fat and calorie content. Dr. Ward, author of Chow Hounds: Why Our Dogs Are Getting Fatter—A Vet’s Plan to Save Their Lives, says that the most important stat on a dog-food label is the calorie count and suggests pet owners lay off the treats. Dr. Ward states that some treats contain as much as 10 percent of a pet’s calories. It’s like drinking a 200-calorie milkshake as a snack (which, unfortunately, some people do). As always, talk to your veterinarian before switching your pet’s food.

Aside from watching what your pet eats, you should also be concerned about exercise. Your dog should be getting at least 45 minutes of exercise each day. Cat owners aren’t off the hook; cats need 20 minutes of daily activity.

Tips for Exercising Your Cat

 Move the food bowl so it’s farther away from your cat’s normal hang out spots.

 Get your cat to chase feather toys, Ping-Pong balls, or a balled up piece of wax paper.

 Buy a remote controlled toy mouse and get your cat to chase it around the house.

 If your cat is an only cat, consider adopting another kitty for companionship as well as to keep your cat moving.

Tips for Exercising Your Dog

 Run or rollerblade with your dog.

 Play fetch or Frisbee in the park.

 Take your dog to the beach and let him swim.

 Buy a Buster Cube to feed your dog. You place your dog’s kibble inside the cube and your dog must roll the cube to get his food out. For more information, check out dogtoys.com

When dealing with pet obesity, prevention is key. It can be hard to get pets to lose weight, especially if it is an arthritic pet that cannot exercise. Just as it is with people, staying at a steady weight is a much easier task. Luckily, even if your pet is overweight, it’s not too late. Hopefully Obie’s fight to lose weight will encourage other people to help their pets maintain the best health possible. Obesity is not something to be ignored.

Adoptable Pet of the Week

Fillmore is 8-year-old male Miniature Pinscher Mix. He is great with kids, cats, dogs, and just about anything else out there in this world. He’s house-trained and has great house manners. He enjoys spending his days snuggling up in his comfy bed with a blanket to cover his short-haired body. Great on leash and would enjoy at least two walks a day. He’s an older guy looking for a bed to snuggle near your family.

To inquire about adopting a dog, visit DAWG in Santa Barbara. DAWG (Dog Adoption and Welfare Group) is a no-kill not for profit dog rescue/adoption organization. For more information, call 681-0561. You can view more adoptable dogs at sbdawg.org. All of the dogs have been spayed/neutered, micro-chipped, are current on their shots, and have flea/tick/mosquito protection. We ask for a minimum adoption donation of $250 for young dogs (under three years), $150 for adult dogs, and $125 for seniors (dogs 8 years old and over).

For more information on our available dogs, call 681-0561; email, adopt@sbdawg.org; or come by during open adoption hours, Thursday-Monday, 12 noon-5 p.m., 5480 Overpass Road in Goleta.

Lisa Acho Remorenko is executive director of Animal Adoption Solutions, www.animaladoptionsolutions.com

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