Time to Put Fluffy and Fido on a Diet?

  • Pets

by Jane E. Brody / NYTimes /02/19/2019

Veterinarians report that nearly half the dogs they see are overweight or obese, although only 17 percent of owners acknowledge that their pets are too fat.

Humans are not the only residents of the United States who are getting fatter every year. So, unsurprisingly, are our furry friends — the dogs and cats that share our lives and, too often, our tendency to overeat.

Unlike their owners, however, the family dog or cat cannot open the refrigerator or gain access to snacks in high cupboards without human assistance, which means the responsibility for pet obesity rests with you-know-who.

Veterinarians report that nearly half the dogs they see are overweight or obese, although only 17 percent of owners acknowledge that their pets are too fat.

“Others know their pet is overweight but don’t think it’s a problem,” said Deborah Linder, who heads the Tufts Obesity Clinic for Animals Clinical Nutrition Service. “Wrong!”

According to Nationwide, the country’s largest provider of pet health insurance, obesity among dogs and cats has risen for eight years in a row, along with claims for ailments related to being overweight. In 2017, obesity-related insurance claims for veterinary expenses exceeded $69 million, a 24 percent increase over the last eight years, Nationwide reported in January. With only 2 percent of pets covered by insurance, the costs to owners of overweight pets is likely to be in the billions.

Dollars aside, the toll taken by excess weight on the animals’ health, quality of life and longevity is far greater than most owners probably realize. Common obesity-related ailments in dogs and cats include arthritis, heart disease, bladder and urinary tract disease, chronic kidney disease, liver disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and spinal disease.

A study of Labrador retrievers, a breed especially prone to becoming overweight, revealed that excess weight can take nearly two years off a pet’s life. So if you love your pets even half as much as I love mine, you should be willing to keep them lean or, if they are already too chubby, take the steps veterinarians recommend to help them trim down.

study of 50 obese dogs enrolled in a weight-loss program at the University of Liverpool demonstrated the value of losing excess body fat. The 30 animals in the study that reached their target weight had greater vitality, less pain and fewer emotional issues than the animals that remained too fat.

But as with people, prevention is the better route. The best way to keep pets from gaining too much weight is to weigh them periodically. My Havanese gets on the scale at every vet visit, routine or otherwise. If he gains more than half a pound, I cut back a little on his meals and treats. Dr. Linder emphasized that treats should make up no more than 10 percent of a dog’s daily calories.

×