Last month, the New York Times ran a piece about overweight pets. Many of our four-legged pals are marked overweight during routine check-ups at the vet. In fact, 60% of cats and 56% of dogs are considered over their BMI in the United States, with a total of over 100 million pets nationwide.
A week after reading this article, I was at the vet with my dog for her annual check-up and vaccinations. With this article on my mind, I asked the veterinarian if Juniper’s weight was healthy for her size. At 74 pounds, she is almost entirely muscle. Because of some vizsla in her blood, she can sprint with remarkable speed, climb trees, and jump off of high ledges. At age 5, her energy and agility keeps me on my toes. Even with a busy schedule, I aim to give her at least an hour of exercise a day. So I was surprised to hear the veterinarian say she was actually 5-7 pounds over her ideal weight. Despite providing her with an active lifestyle and healthy routine, there was one thing I was overlooking: how much I was feeding her. I hadn’t considered the fact that as a five-year old dog, she doesn’t need quite as much caloric intake as a highly energetic puppy. The vet instructed me to cut the amount of food I was giving her by 20% and watch for fatty treats (and table scraps!).
Pets that pack the extra pounds are at risk for a slew of health issues; diabetes is a common concern for cats, and arthritis for dogs, along with high blood pressure. So how do we keep our pets svelte and healthy? Ask your vet about your pet’s ideal daily calorie intake, instead of relying on the back of the food bag, which doesn’t account for lifestyle, breed, etc. Avoid free feeding and table scraps. Schedule in fun exercise for your pet, too – whatever it is that gets him or her excited to play, whether it’s chasing a ball or toy mouse, having a play date, or going for a long, vigorous walk. Lastly, I’m not sure if my vet would have addressed Juniper’s weight if I hadn’t asked, so you may have to initiate the conversation. Here’s to a year of healthy dogs and cats!