Obesity in Pets
“That’s all you give him?”
I’ve been asked that question twice in the last three weeks, but it isn’t the first time I’ve heard it. When guests in my home watch me feed my cat, Simon, they often show concern that it isn’t enough. When I first adopted Simon off the street he vowed that he would never be hungry again, scarfing down as much food as he could. This technique usually results in vomit. But because of this behavior, I had to measure his food and split his meals into four feedings every day. If I hadn’t made this adjustment he would be Garfield’s doppelganger! After switching Simon to a raw diet, however, I stopped measuring his meals.
He weighs between ten and eleven pounds and is very active, so the daily recommended amount of food for him is four ounces of frozen raw, according to Nature’s Variety Instinct website. The factors that determine how much to feed include the type of food, the cat’s activity levels and their current versus ideal weights. In the past, I’ve fed him Primal, Small Batch, Nature’s Variety Instinct and other similar products. They come in pre-measured nuggets – each approximately two ounces – so when I buy him Corrina’s Corners or All Provide (both are local Atlanta-based companies), I scoop out a similar amount to the size of the nuggets. I also add raw goat’s milk to each meal and he gets treats throughout the day, so it’s highly likely that I over feed him.
He has maintained a healthy weight for years on a raw diet so I’m not concerned that he will be getting fat any time soon. If you’re concerned, there is a feeding calculator on Nature’s Variety’s website where you can check the amounts for dry, canned, and raw food for your pet! I’m sure most pet food companies have feeding guides on their websites so take advantage of your resources.
Every other day there is a new trend in weight loss or some article out about a new superfood that’s going to save us all. While there is evidence out there about the benefits of weight loss and strength training for humans, the pet community is slowly (but surely) catching up. They may have two more legs to carry themselves, but that doesn’t mean loading on extra weight onto them is acceptable. There are studies that show a number of health issues associated with obesity in our pets, so let’s look at a few!
Did you know that there is an Association for Pet Obesity Prevention? I love it! October 9 is National Pet Obesity Awareness Day, and thankfully they have provided some great resources to help spread the word. I’ve included the link below for their website, because not only does the Pet Obesity Association provide plenty of data for us, but October 9 they will be conducting their 12th annual Pet Nutrition and Weight Management survey. Collectively, we can help contribute to their data set! They also provide some great tools of their website that can be useful in reaching weight loss goals for our dogs and cats.
According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, “In 2018, an estimated 60% of cats and 56% of dogs in the United States were overweight or obese.” That is millions of animals in American homes. I know people think it’s cute when our fur-babies have a little extra to love, but their health could be affected. Ideally, you should be able to easily feel your dog or cat’s ribs using light pressure with your hands. Also, if you’re looking at your pet from a birds-eye view, you can also look for a waist to help determine if they are dealing with weight issues.
Overweight or obese dogs and cats can develop arthritis, kidney issues, diabetes, high blood pressure, as well as heart and respiratory problems. Some cancers have also been linked to obesity in animals. In some cases, weight gain and chronic obesity can cause these problems, and in other cases they can worsen or contribute to diseases. If your pet’s little body is carrying unnecessary weight, it can cause their structural and organ systems to work harder on everyday tasks. That can affect their digestion greatly. In Traditional Chinese medicine there is a belief that if an imbalance in the stomach exists, health issues are sure to follow. We hear about probiotics, prebiotics, digestive enzymes, and the importance of the gut biome all the time these days. The same importance applies to our pets. By reaching ideal weight in a healthy manner, you could be extending the lifespan of your pet by years!
Diet is not the only factor in weight loss. You can help improve your pet’s health by increasing their activity level. Go for an extra walk everyday with your dog; you’ll reap the benefits too! You could also create an obstacle course or carve out more play time with your dog or cat. Not only does this burn calories for both of you, but it also builds stronger bonds with them. This is great endorphin-stimulating therapy! Don’t even get me started on the benefits of endorphins – I’ll start working on that blog article for another day. Another way you could help your pet lose weight is by finding out what foods they have developed sensitivities or intolerances to by testing their hair with our 5 Strands test. By discovering what foods or environmental factors could be causing symptoms in our pets, we can help them become healthier and happier.
If you’d like to purchase one of our tests, you can purchase on our website at https://www.5strands.com/shop/