Unfortunately, the answer to the question, ‘Is my pet overweight?’ is… ‘Probably, yes.’
The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) was founded in 2005 by veterinarian Dr. Ernie Ward with the mission of developing and promoting parallel weight loss programs designed to help pet owners safely and effectively lose weight alongside their pets.
Their latest Pet Obesity Survey in 2018 suggests that 59.5% of cats and 55.8% of dogs were classified as overweight or obese. That means about 56 million cats and 50 million dogs are overweight or obese, based on 2018 pet population projections provided by APPA, the American Pet Products Association.
That’s 106 million pets…which is is why the answer I gave to the original question posed was, ‘Probably!’ Those statistics suggest that more pets are carrying a little (or lot of) extra weight than not.
So, what can we do about this?
Walking through the dog food aisles of a pet store is overwhelming. Let’s not even talk about the endless TV commercials. Pet food is big business. There is a lot of money to be made feeding our fur babies.
But my advice is simple; what do you do if you need (or want) to lose a few pounds yourself? You probably try to reduce your calorie intake, and (try to) increase the calories you burn. It’s really no different for your pet. And in many ways it’s a lot easier for your pet. I’ve not met a dog yet that can grab a bag of chips from the pantry, get some dip from the fridge, and go to town on those Doritos while watching Netflix after dinner! (No opposable thumbs!)
Yes, we can talk about prescription food and prescription weight loss diets, and those may be necessary in some instances. But for most dogs and cats who need to shave a few pounds, cutting their portion size combined with a gentle increase in their exercise regime (admittedly easier for dogs!) can do the trick.
Check the labels of your pet food and pet treats. Each should have a calorific value per cup or per treat. Speak with your vet, figure out what a good daily calorie count would be based on your pet’s activity level and weight goals, and together you can figure out a plan.
An Example: A German Shepherd ‘Diet’
We recently had a two and a half year old German Shepherd Dog who weighed in at 84lbs; the ideal weight for his body type and frame is about 78-80lbs. This dog wasn’t obese, he was just maybe 5-8% above where we would like him. He eats the Kirkland brand of Chicken, Vegetable & Rice kibble.
So we cut him back from three and a half cups of food a day to three cups, but that didn’t have an effect – he wasn’t losing weight. So we went down to two and half cups/day with a restriction on the number and type of treats he got each day…which didn’t seem to be excessive anyway. We wanted him at around 1100 calories a day.
This dog is frequently exercised. He gets a daily two to three mile walk, as well as chasing balls/sticks in the park every morning. He does a lot of running! In a little over two weeks he had dropped two pounds, and we are expecting a similar drop at his next weigh-in. So, within a month to six weeks, he should be on track to his ideal weight.
We can then increase his food portion back up a little to three cups a day to maintain that healthy 78-80lb range.
Contact Your Vet Today
Applying common sense can work wonders. Work with your vet, come up with a plan, and stick with it…even when your pet looks at you with those doe eyes that say, ‘I’m hungry mom!’ – Remember it’s for his own good! Dogs and cats who maintain an ideal weight are less likely to have health issues later in life…just like us hoomans!
If you have any questions or concerns about your pet’s diet, or if you find yourself asking, ‘Is my pet overweight?’, please talk to us, or your own veterinarian. Please call 480.774.6995 to schedule an appointment with Compassionate Animal Care today.