• By Beth Oleson Marketing Director

Pet obesity is a big, fat problem

Often overheard at the Woodford Humane Adoption Center: “Ohh, I just LOVE fat cats!” That phrase is such a mixed bag for us. We always have overweight pets who need homes, and it’s nice to know that people are interested in them. But pet obesity is a huge problem, and the thought that someone might take an overweight pet home and not make an effort to get it healthy - or worse, take a healthy pet home and deliberately let it become obese - is troubling.

According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 53 percent of dogs and 55 percent of cats in American homes are overweight or obese. Overweight pets suffer from severe arthritis (particularly declawed cats, whose joint alignment is already compromised), skin infections, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and kidney disease. Even their cancer risk is high compared to pets of healthy weight. An overweight pets’ lifespan is reduced by an average of two-and-a-half years; their quality of life, as they struggle through the pain of all of the aforementioned medical complications, is reduced the moment we allow them to become overweight. Intentionally or not, it is unkind to cause or perpetuate a painful lifestyle for your pet, and obesity is no exception.

The driver of pet weight problems is – surprise – diet and exercise. We once took in a cocker spaniel/poodle mix that weighed 42 lbs.; “healthy” for her body structure was 25 lbs. When asked what she was fed, the owner replied that the dog got whatever she wanted – mostly cheeseburgers. An over-fed pet is not a well-fed pet, nor is a pet that is allowed to eat junk food, whether that’s low-quality, grain-filled kibble or the cheeseburger off your plate. Get in touch and we’ll be happy to provide you with our guide to pet nutrition so that you can make good choices at the pet store; once you know how to read an ingredients list, it’s easy to do.

Exercise is the other half of the equation, and it can’t be ignored – diet alone is often not enough to take off those extra pounds. It’s up to us to take an active role in our pets’ exercise routines; just putting them out in the yard does not count. Play fetch, take longer walks, have a play date, take a hike – there are lots of options. As a rule of thumb, you should spend at least an hour a day exercising your dog. For cats, exercise is all about toys; but again, just having toys around the house does not count. Keep an arsenal of toys that move, bounce, or crinkle, toys that you wave, throw, or roll, and spend at least half an hour a day engaging your cat in the hunt.

If your veterinarian tells you that your pet is overweight, don’t be offended; see it as a call to action to help your pet live a longer, happier life. Open a dialogue about healthier choices, make some changes and help your pet slim down. You’ll be happy you did. Get in touch with us at 859-873-5491 or manager@woodfordhumane.org – we’re here to help.

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