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Is My Pet Too Fat?

black and white cartoon of a fat catIf you’re asking the question ‘Is my pet too fat,’ the answer is probably YES. 

In the U.S., it’s estimated that 57 percent of cats and 52 percent of dogs are overweight or clinically obese.

October 10th is Pet Obesity Awareness Day, so it’s a great time for people who think their pet may be too fat to learn about the common causes of obesity in pets. Good information means you can act before excess weight negatively impacts your pet’s health, along with your heart and your wallet. Nobody needs extra vet bills.

How Pets Get FAT

Overfeeding is one of the main culprits in pet obesity – but it’s not just treat-based. Many people simply fill their pet’s bowl with food without thinking about the calories. Always use a measuring cup and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for weight, age and activity levels.

black and white cartoon dog begging for a treatKeep treats to a minimum. It’s easy to slip treats to a pet that wants your attention while you’re busy with something else.

Next it’s because they look so cute, sweet, sad.

If your pet learns you’ll reward them for a particular behavior, they’ll work it for everything they can get.

Lack of exercise is another issue – make sure your dog gets walks regularly (it’s good for you both) and that both cats and dogs get plenty of play time and activities to keep them moving. Even cats can be trained to walk on a leash – why not give it a try?

Remember, obesity in pets is not always due too many treats and too little exercise. Just as in humans, underlying health issues like diabetes, thyroid or adrenal disorders can also cause weight gain in animals. If your pet is gaining weight, or already overweight or obese, it’s time to schedule a visit to the vet. 

Check out your pet’s weight equivalent by breed, age and gender here to see if they are at a healthy weight or need to lose weight: http://www.petobesityprevention.org/pet-weight-translator/

How to Choose a Good Quality Dog Food

Good pet nutrition is a great subject to kick off the new year. Choosing a dog food can be overwhelming with so many varieties on the market.

How do you determine what is the healthiest choice for your dog?

Here are some tips that can help you find the best quality food for your pooch.

Read the Ingredients Label: No matter what the age of your pet, you’re going to want to see some specific things in the ingredients to be certain it’s a good quality food. In pet foods, the ingredients are listed by weight/quantity – so the the first few ingredients will comprise the bulk of the food.

The first ingredients should alway include some form of named animal protein like beef, chicken, lamb, or fish. Caution: avoid ‘meat by-products or poultry by-products’ as these are usually manufactured from low-cost parts that could come from any number of sources. If a listing includes ‘meal’ – a named type such as beef meal or chicken meal is better than ‘meat meal’.

Whole Vegetables, Fruits & Grains: Like humans, dogs get nutritional benefits from whole foods. Good quality dog food formulas will include added essential vitamins and minerals derived from legumes, fruits, vegetables, grains or meat. For those who prefer to leave grain out of the mix by choice or necessity due to diet sensitivities, there are many high quality grain-free foods on the market.

Quality Fats & Oils: A balanced diet provides about 10-15% fat, and promotes healthy skin and a shiny coat. Fats provide energy, add taste and flavor to foods, as well as aid in the absorption of certain vitamins. Quality fats used in dog foods include poultry fat, vegetable oil, soybean oil, and fish oil. Avoid foods with a generic ‘animal fat’ listing as they can come from less than desirable sources.

Choose a Food for Your Pet’s Particular Size, Activity Levels & Life Stage: The nutritional needs of a puppy are quite different from an adult or senior dog. In addition, the size, activity levels of the dog can also be important. Some pet foods are formulated to meet the dietary needs of a specific breed. For example – a breed that’s susceptible to joint problems might benefit from a food that includes vitamins and minerals that help strengthen bones.

What to Avoid: Say no to artificial colors, flavors and preservatives like BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin. Look for natural preservatives, such as tocopherols (forms of vitamin E), vitamin C, and rosemary extract instead. Watch out for added sugar or artificial sweeteners! Dogs love sweet things too, and these are often added to foods to coax dogs to eat sub-standard foods. 

Note the Important Dates on the Bag: Natural preservatives mean the food has a shorter shelf life than those using artificial preservatives. Look for the freshest products by checking the date of manufacture and ‘best by’ dates.