Is Your Pet Overweight?
Erica's cat Sam should weigh eight pounds -- but he's pushing 23! And Michelle's beagle Scooby weighs twice as much as he should at 70 pounds. "I think it's because he likes to eat human food," she says. "I don't think there's any way we can get him to stop eating." Dr. Ernie Ward, a veterinarian and weight specialist, tells Rach that Sam and Scooby are hardly alone with their weight issues. "It really parallels the human epidemic," he says. "We're dealing right now with one in four pets, dogs and cats, that are obese in this country." The doc says this puts them in danger of diseases like type 2 diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and cancer.
"The biggest culprit is the treats," Dr. Ward explains. "In moderation, they're great, but the portion sizes are too big." He says that one dog bone could have as much as 600 calories, equal to two Snickers bars! "People don't realize this," he says, "but ten extra little kibbles of food a day for a cat could equal an extra pound a year."
Dr. Ward suggests these tests to see if your pet might be overweight:
You should be able to feel the ribs easily.
When you look at your pet from the side, you should see an abdominal tuck, not a sagging stomach. "It shouldn't look like a 'Swifter cat,' which is what we call cats that sweep the floor as they walk along," he says.
What can Erica and Michelle do to start their pets on a healthier lifestyle?
For Sam the cat, Dr. Ward recommends the "modified catkins" diet: "Really increase the protein because they're carnivores -- it should be greater than 35% of their diet, with fats making up about 10%. Salmon is good with its omega-3s."
To help Scooby the beagle lose weight, Dr. Ward suggests, "Really cut the calories down -- maintain optimal protein levels, and really reduce the carbs and fats. And add an exercise program -- if we don't get him moving, he's not going to shed the pounds."
Make sure you consult with your veterinarian before starting your pet on a diet.
Dr. Ward say that getting your pets in shape can have other benefits as well. "I believe that dogs and cats can be the gateway into better health for ourselves," he says. "Walking with your dog twice a day, or once a day, whatever you can do gets you better. And you'll be eating healthy food yourselves."
Is your pet overweight? Find out what other viewers are saying and join the discussion on the message boards!
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