The latest studies suggest that 25% of pets in the US are obese – that totals 33 million fat cats and fat dogs. A staggering 45% of US pets are overweight.

We’ve never had any trouble with our overactive Labrador but recently this hit home to our family when we fostered our first pug – Liza (there she is in the picture). She came to us overweight and we have been attempting to reduce her daily food intake but have had little luck shedding the pounds so far. I’ve been a little scared to walk her too far as she limps and seems to struggle (she is advanced in years – 9-10yrs) but I took her on her first walk up the street and back tonight in an attempt to increase her movement. Sitting on the dog bed or at your feet is her most favorite activity. We are going to have to work up to all the way around the block – but at least we’ve made a start.

I was searching on the web for diet tips and discovered that February is the first National Canine Weight Check. A group of vets have come together to offer free weight assessments for dogs this month. You can find the vets near you that are offering this program at www.stopcanineobesity.com/ncwc

Pet obesity is a serious problem as it puts pets at risk of diseases such as osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and cancer. Extra weight can also worsen existing conditions such as asthma, high blood pressure, hormone imbalances, and joint diseases. Put simply, carrying around the extra pounds will shorten the life of your pet. Veterinary Pet Insurance reported that last year they reimbursed policy holders over 14 million dollars for claims related to obesity – around 7 % of their total claims.

The most common reason for weight gain in pet is overeating. If the number of calories consumed by the pet each day is more than is used for normal body functions and during exercise then extra calories are stored as fat. There are other factors that can contribute to weight gain including heredity, breed, body type, and some medical conditions. Usually all that is needed for weight loss is reduced calorie intake and increased exercise. It is a common myth that spaying/neutering a pet will cause slowing of the metabolism. However, just like humans an animals metabolism will slow with age, so as they get older they will need to eat less calories each day.

Signs that your pet is overweight include:

1. Difficulty finding the ribs under layers of fat. Ribs should be easily felt.

2. Sagging stomach

3. No waist

4. Broad / flat back

Ideal weights for dogs vary by breed but a healthy pet usually weighs between 8-10 lbs. You can find a chart of ideal dog weights for common breeds at www.petobesityprevention.com/weight_ranges.htm

If your pet is overweight then you should visit your vet to get a weight assessment and suggestions for a diet plan.

An easy diet plan for dogs is:

1. Record the weight of your dog

2. Reduce their daily calorie intake by 1/3 (this means 1/3 of the total calories consumed in food and treats)

3. Weigh your dog again after 2 weeks

4. If no weight is lost – reduce calories again by 1/3. If weight is lost then stick to this amount of calories.

5. Repeat this cycle until your dog successfully starts losing weight

A healthy rate of weight loss is 1-2% of total body weight per week. If your pet is losing weight more rapidly then they may be losing lean muscle tissue. You should feed your pets a quality food and avoid table scraps and too many treats. Some vets recommend avoiding “Low Calorie” or “Diet Foods” for pets as these food have less fats and often more carbohydrates. Extra carbs stimulate insulin production which tells the body to store unused calories as fat. Often it is preferable to simply cut the amount of your regular pet foods.

For more weight loss tips visit www.petobesityprevention.com or take advantage of Canine Weight Check and take your dog to your nearest participating vet for a free weight assessment. Don’t wait any longer to start improving the health of your pets – because who want to have less time with their companions?