Community Home & Style Puppy Dog Tails — 14 February 2011

About 40 percent of household pets are overweight and half of those are considered obese, according to The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. According to me, its a disgrace!

We want nothing more than to make our pets happy, so we give them all we have: too much food, too many treats and maybe even too much room on our couch. But, because we live such busy lives, we are oftentimes unable to give them the exercise they so desperately want and need. Too much food and not enough exercise is a recipe for disaster and we, my fellow humans, are the problem!

Excess weight is just as problematic for animals as it is for humans. Overweight pets can suffer from heart disease, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders and cancer. Its easy to tell if your pet is overweight and its not difficult to correct. It just takes a bit of commitment.

The first step is to realize that you are to blame for your pets weight issue. Your dog does not wake up in the middle of the night, walk into the kitchen and help herself to a peanut butter and bacon sandwich. Your pet has you and you have the power of the scoop.

If you suspect your pet is a little plump, talk to your veterinarian to determine their optimum weight and feeding amount, then consider your pets food. Ideally, pet food should contain 50 percent meat, 40 percent vegetables and only 10 percent carbohydrates. If youre feeding your pets wholesale club quality food, where the main ingredient is corn or wheat, you might as well let them have a bag of Doritos. And, we all know human food of any kind is a no-no. 

Whether you choose to feed them once or twice a day, overweight pets should only be fed at feeding time. Leaving your pets food out all day encourages overeating. Listen and listen carefully: drop your pets bowl, give her a set amount of time to consume what delightfully nutritious entre you have presented, about 15 minutes should do, and pick up the bowl. You heard me, pick up the bowl! No, your pets wont starve to death while they figure out the new feeding schedule. They will catch on quickly and you will be on your way to a leaner, healthier pet. 

Give your pets wholesome snacks in place of the disgustingly delicious treats you usually get at the store. Many fruits and veggies make great treats, but do your homework, because dog-appropriate snacks arent always safe for cats and vice versa. Also, practice moderation when treating. Pets should only receive treats as rewards. Lying around hardly merits a prize. When was the last time someone praised you for sitting around in your pajamas, watching reruns all day?

Finally, get your pets moving! Dogs need walks regardless of how busy you are or how cold it is outside. The bigger the dog, the longer the walk she needs. Sorry, there is no app for that; you actually have to walk your dogs yourself or hire someone to do it. Your cats need exercise too and, although we saw a cat on a leash at the Scottish Parade last month, cats can just as well exercise indoors with the appropriate toys and, of course, human interaction. 

There is no excuse for an overweight pet, people. It is our responsibility to ensure our pets are not only happy but also healthy. Now, get to it!

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Alexandria Times Staff

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