Samson, my German Shepherd, never met a meal he didn’t like (that goes for socks, too, but that’s another story). When he tipped the scales at 105 pounds, our vet, Dr. Matthew Keifer, gently reminded us that German Shepherd dogs are prone to hip problems, so it would be best keep Samson under 100 pounds. We heeded his advice, despite Samson’s obvious desire for more food, today he is a svelte 93 pounds.
We are all aware of high obesity rates in humans. The most recent figures from the CDC report the prevalence of obesity in adults is 39.8%. But, another report caught my eye from ConscienHealth showing the rising rates of obesity in our dogs and cats. A report from a pet insurance company showed that they paid out $69 million for obesity-related veterinary care last year. Since less than 2% of pet owners have insurance for their furry friends, the dollar amount for obesity-related care is bound to be much higher.
The Association for Pet Obesity (#sad that we need such an organization) reports 2017 data showing that 56% of dogs and 60% of cats are clinically overweight. And, that takes a toll on their health.
I reached out to Dr. Leah Dorman, who, along with her colleague, helped me understand what we can do to keep our pets at a healthy weight. Here are their top 10 tips for controlling weight (these are for dogs and cats, but some of these work well for humans, too!)
- Many of us don’t realize our pets are overweight, so Dr. Dorman likes to show this chart to help clients identify if their pet is at a healthy weight. Body condition scoring helps the vet determine obesity and is another tool besides just scale weight. “An extra 30 pounds on a 65-pound Labrador is equivalent to an extra 75 pounds on a 154-pound woman,” making us appreciate how weight can affect a dog’s health.
- In addition to the medical conditions shown in the chart, dogs can show issues with their knee ligaments as the excess weight puts a burden on joints (just like it does in humans.) Losing even a small amount of weight can make a big difference in the mobility of an arthritic pet. Obese cats have a higher incidence of diabetes and dogs who are fed lots of people food can experience pancreatitis.
3. Assess your pet’s eating routine and the family’s feeding habits. Dr. Dorman recommend feeding the amount that keeps the pet in tip-top shape, based on body condition scoring. Portion control is important. “A little poodle is only about 5% of an owner’s body weight, so adjust any people food they are given accordingly,” says Dr. Dorman. This link can help you identify treats for pets compared to human foods.
4. For pets who are not very active, consider feeding “less active” pet foods for a less calorie dense diet that allows the pet to still feel full.
5. Treats are OK, just limit the amounts of treats. Or, find low-cal treats like carrots or green beans if your pet will eat them. Be careful about table scraps; “calories can add up quickly and it’s often done on the sly by family members…it’s so hard to resist those begging puppy or kitty eyes watching every bite you take. Be strong! Your pet’s health depends on it!”
6. In households where there are multiple people feeding the pet, put all the treats and food for the pet into a Ziplock bag labeled Sunday through Saturday. When the bag is empty, they are done for the day.
7. Limit or eliminate canned food. “Try green beans; cut a pet’s food back by 20% and replace that volume with green beans.”
8. “Dogs are feast or famine eaters… their ancestors would go out, catch something then gorge themselves then not eat for a few days. It is normal for pets to eat well one day and not the next.” So, avoid the temptation to doctor up their food to tempt them to eat.
9. “Stop feeding them when they beg!!! You are rewarding a bad behavior. It’s like giving your kid a candy bar in the checkout line when they are wailing at the top of their lungs even though you said no six times already. You cave to the begging behavior and you bet they will be back to beg.”
10. Be aware of the calories in the pet treats. “A large busy bone has over 700 calories and an average size dog treat has about 110 calories- about the number of calories in a chocolate chip cookie. It’s OK to have one, but not 10 each day!”
Dr. Leah Dorman is Doctor of Veterinarian Medicine and is the Director, Food Integrity & Consumer Engagement with Phibro Animal Health Corporation. Follow her on twitter @askDrDorman and terrific blog, found by clicking here.
Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.