Downsize the Dog

By Anna Sachse

Posted October 22, 2009 in Mind Body Spirit

All you have to do is open your eyes and look around (perhaps in the mirror) to know that Americans are seriously f’n fat. According to the most recent stats from the National Center for Health Statistics, only 27.3 percent of adult Americans are actually a healthy weight. Those who are simply overweight weigh in at 32.7 percent, while the numbers for those who can be labeled obese are even higher—just over 34 percent. The “extremely” obese make up the final six percent. 


Problem is, our tendency toward over-indulgence and lack of movement extends beyond ourselves to some other creatures who are less able to make their own decisions. I’m not talking about the children (fretting about fat children is so 2008), I’m talking about fat cats and pudgy pooches. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP;, an estimated 44 percent (or 33 million) of U.S. dogs and an estimated 57 percent (or 51 million) of U.S. cats are overweight or obese. As a consequence, fat Fluffy and Fido have a greater risk of developing osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, respiratory disorders, hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease and many forms of cancer. Of course, I do have to admit that roly-poly animals can be pretty darn cute—I even pointed out to my husband how ridiculously adorable the APOP logo is. But all that excess weight gets in the way of your pets living full, happy, energetic lives and it can shorten their actual lifespan, which, as you may know if you’ve ever lost a beloved furry friend, totally sucks. 


So then, if your pet is husky, it’s not the pet that is lazy; it’s you that is being lazy about caring for your critter. And if you really need help determining whether or not your pet is too portly, I’d be willing to bet that you’re on the overly-chunky side yourself. Nevertheless, here are a few general hints: your pet’s ribs are difficult to feel under the fat; your pet’s stomach sags; your pet’s back is broad and flat; your pet’s waist is barely visible or absent.


Check out the APOP website for fact sheets on healthy weight ranges for common breeds of domestic dogs and cats, as well as average caloric needs and the calories in common pet foods and treats. There are also worksheets that provide general information on safe weight loss, diet and exercise tips and other general slim-down-and-get-fit advice for both pooches (“Pet your dog or play with it when it begs for food. Many dogs substitute food for affection so flip the equation and you may find that playtime displaces chowtime”) and kitties (“Try to engage your cat for 10 minutes twice a day. Use feather toys, flashlights, paper bags or balls, anything that your cat finds interesting to chase”). These ideas are especially helpful if your pet is a bit reluctant to get moving or is outraged by its new, bland food.


Yet another option is to sign Rover or Snowball up for a customized exercise program courtesy of a company like the Rialto-based Fur Fitness. In addition to providing basic dog walking and pet sitting services, owner Melissa Morrison offers Canine Fitness (power walks, sprints and hikes with optional weight packs), Puppercise (playful games that stretch growing muscles and expend energy), Kitty Workout (climbing, jumping and stalking) and Rabbit Romps (obstacle courses). Each program also includes healthy treats and a monthly weight check with your pet’s vet.


National Pet Obesity Awareness Day was Wednesday, October 14. It may have already passed, but every day is a good day to downsize your porcine pets.


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