With every New Year come resolutions, and for many of us, those resolutions (often times year after year after year) include getting into shape and losing weight and you shouldn’t forget to include Fluffy and Rover in these efforts!
Vanity and narcissism simply do not exist in the rest of the Animal Kingdom—but obesity does, especially in our furry family members. Obesity in pets is as serious an epidemic as obesity in the rest of the American population, and it can have just as dire consequences.
The old adage about a “fat and happy” senior pet does not hold true. Just like in humans, overweight and obese dogs and cats are at a higher risk for heart and respiratory disease, arthritis, diabetes, skin disease, and other serious and life-threatening conditions.
As humans, love and food often go hand-in-hand. Just watch Anthony Bordain or Andrew Zimmern on the Travel Channel, and you will see that food is a major part of any culture around the world. It is a common need among living beings, and we often use it as a means of collegiality and understanding others who don’t speak our same language.
We do it for our dogs and cats, too—and we do it all too often. It is easy to think that love equals dog treats. Just look at how happy and excited your pet gets when you open the pantry door! But just like sharing a meal with other humans, the experience of giving treats (or, ahem, feeding from the table) transcends the food itself. Don’t get me wrong—Fluffy and Rover like the tasty morsels, but they like the interaction with you just as much. When you give a treat, you are giving your special pet even more individualized attention, and for social animals (especially dogs), this interaction can be just as “addictive” as the treats themselves.
So here are some tips to help you and your furry family members meet your New Years’ resolutions:
• Get out and exercise—and in the words of Emeril Lagasse, “Kick it up a notch!” For those of you sedentary types, start out with walking twice a day. If you already walk twice a day but Rover still looks rotund, walk further and faster. Don’t forget about how easy it is to play fetch and frisbee in your backyard, too.
• Gradually decrease those calorie-laden treats—and no human food! Give fruits and vegetables instead. Baby carrots work great! The only items Rover and Fluffy CAN’T have are grapes and raisins (they cause kidney failure) and onions and garlic (which cause rupture of their red blood cells).
• See your veterinarian for a nutritional consult. In some cases, he or she may need to prescribe a special food to help in Rover’s weight loss efforts. A prescription weight loss diet is different from those over-the-counter “light” and “weight control” diets, which are designed only to maintain a healthy weight in those prone to obesity—they are not designed to achieve safe and healthy weight loss. And restricting Fluffy’s regular food can also restrict much-needed nutrients, leaving her feeling hungry and irritable and susceptible to illness.
Remember: Their lives are already relatively short—why make them shorter?
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