Pet Obesity: Fight the Fat!

UPDATED: Nov 14, 2013

By now, no doubt, your ears have heard it thousands of times – we are facing an obesity epidemic. Epidemics used to be limited to just infectious diseases, and for some reason they were always named after colors – the Red Death, the Black Death, Prussian Blue Death, Scarlet Fever and Oil-Rubbed-Bronze Death. But now, we face a new and chubbier foe, and so do our pets. Our pets are gaining ounces, pounds and kilograms at the same rate as we are, and the same diseases that come along for the ride in people with obesity (chiefly arthritis and diabetes) are starting to show up in our pets as well. I have diagnosed diabetes in several pets and had the owners come back with “that’s funny doc, me n’ the wife got the dibeetus, too” more times than I care to say.

A sedentary lifestyle, higher calorie-density foods and the ready availability of food nearly everywhere have gotten us into this modern predicament, and these factors apply to our pets as well as to ourselves. Whereas dogs used to spend their days roaming hill and dale chasing varmints or herding livestock (and burning metric boatloads of calories in the process), they now laze about just looking good. And where they once got a few table scraps or offal to eat, they now get full-on complete nutrition that beats in caloric density what a good portion of the world subsists on.

This situation took decades to reach its peak, and perhaps centuries in the windup to the modern way of life – perhaps millennia. We and our pets are victims of our success. Where once life was a short, brutish struggle for resources for both ourselves and our pets, we now loll about in a world of relative plenty. There is little physical work to do to burn off the calories of our engorgements.

So, what to do? Where to start?

It won’t reverse overnight, and it won’t reverse without effort. So start small, start realistic and start with something you can stick with. Here are some tips – and some will help you lose weight as well as your pets:

  • Some kinds of treats can really wallop your pets with calories – try low calorie treats like SENTRY PurLuv.
  • Get up and get out!  A walk will get you moving, and get the pounds off of both of you
  • Try an active toy for your dog.
  • Cats, who typically are harder to walk than dogs, can go totally bonkers and batty (for HOURS!) over a laser pointer. While not great exercise for you, I can guarantee you will laugh your butt off, so there is that.
  • Try walking your cat. It could happen. It will certainly amuse the neighbors either way.
  • Substitute a portion of your dog’s food for either cooked carrots or cooked green beans.

Enlist the help of your veterinarian in any weight loss plan. They can be your trusted ally in shedding pounds, and can help with ideas and weight measurements. There can be medical reasons why your dog is heavy, too – some of which are easily treated like hypothyroidism. Your veterinarian can also help with special diets, prescription foods, or even medications designed to help dogs lose weight.

This is a problem that affects us all, and now involves our pets. The consequences can be deadly and can shorten the lives of everybody involved. We have created a world where we take in more than we can ever hope to burn off, and it is catching up with us. There are some options, and there are some things that you can do. There is hope. Luckily, part of the solution can be that leash that is hanging right beside the door. Go ahead – pick it up. See that tail wag? That’s the start of something beautiful!

-Photo Credit: From flickr by



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