ANIMAL WELFARE
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LIFE

Four tips for stopping your pet becoming obese

We may think we are showing love for our four-legged friends by spoiling them with food and treats, but in fact we're doing them no favours

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 June, 2015, 6:41am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 June, 2015, 6:41am

According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention in the United States, more than half of the nation's cats and dogs are overweight. And just as worrying, more than 90 per cent of their owners don't recognise that their pet is carrying around extra pounds.

"People automatically think a fat cat is a happy cat," says Ernie Ward, owner of Seaside Animal Care in North Carolina. "But it's not cute. It's killing."

Ward founded the organisation in 2005 after realising many veterinarians were not talking to pet owners about obesity. Ten years later, he says, vets are finally having those necessary conversations.

"It's an emotional landmine," Ward says. "You don't know when you're going to step on the wrong button because people have a problem with questions [about how they're] feeding pets because we equate love with food and treats."

Like humans, pets become obese because of too much food and too little exercise, says veterinarian Eve Flores.

Overweight animals are more prone to health conditions, including arthritis and blindness.

Below are some suggestions from Ward and Flores for owners looking to improve pets' health.

ANNUAL CHECK-UPS

Many pet owners do not take their dogs or cats to the veterinarian until something is wrong. "We can't practise preventive medicine if we're not seeing the pets," Flores says.

Pets should be seen by the veterinarian at least once a year for the doctor to evaluate the animals.

READ LABELS

"The most important decision an owner makes is what they feed their pet," Ward says.

Flores encourages pet owners to look at the ingredients listed on food packages. If any of the first three items is unpronounceable or hard to understand, don't buy it.

CALORIES COUNT

"Pay attention to the amount you're feeding your dog," Flores says, adding that owners should be aware that treats have calories, too. She also says that diet food and pet foods that are grain free or raw have become marketing tools more than healthful alternatives.

EXERCISE

Ward uses a simple equation to get through to his clients: "Fat equals inflammation, which equals disease which equals early death." To avoid that, exercise is a must, he says. "It is as simple as walking your dog 30 minutes a day, interacting with your cat for five minutes three times a day."

Los Angeles Times