Speaking of Pets: Pets should eat to live and not live to eat | VailDaily.com

Speaking of Pets: Pets should eat to live and not live to eat

By Joan Merriam
Special to the Daily
Obese pets live two-and-a-half years less than pets with a healthy weight, on average.
Special to the Daily

We’ve all heard of the obesity epidemic. But our dogs and cats are getting fatter too, for much the same reasons as we: too much food and too little exercise. It’s estimated that half of our pet population is overweight or obese. 

Health issues

Why do we chuckle at the YouTube video of a tubby tabby cat or pudgy puppy waddling along the sidewalk, as if it’s something cute? How “cute” are diseases like arthritis, heart disease, kidney failure, high blood pressure, liver disease, diabetes, and cancer? Every one of these can be linked to obesity…not to mention the fact that overweight pets die an average of two-and-a-half years earlier than their slimmer relatives.

Spotting obesity

Here’s how to check your dog or cat for extra pounds: While your pet is standing, feel around its midsection. The ribs should be easy to feel, and on most pets the waist should be slightly tucked in. If you have to search to find your pet’s ribs or spine, and its waist looks more like the Pillsbury Dough-Boy, it’s time to start a weight loss program.


One solution is to simply feed your pet less.  Cut down on the amount of food. Chances are, it’s too much. Try replacing some of the kibble with vegetables like green beans or carrots. Avoid high-fat treats; instead, try raw carrots, dehydrated sweet potatoes, and fruits like apples and cantaloupe. 


Then, exercise your pet. You don’t have to become a marathon runner to reduce Fido’s waistline— a brisk, twenty-minute walk several times a week will help both of you get in shape. Play with your dog…take him for a swim…go to the dog park…or enroll her in agility training. 

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

Cats, too, need about twenty minutes a day of exercise: Most cats will happily play with cat toys, crumpled paper, an empty paper bag, or even light from a flashlight. Anything to get your dog and cat moving will help burn calories and stave off the life-threatening diseases and disorders that come with being overweight. 

Like us, your pets should eat to live, not live to eat!

Joan Merriam lives in Northern California with her golden retriever Joey and Maine coon cat Indy. She emphasizes that she’s not a veterinarian or animal behaviorist — just an animal lover who’s been writing about pets since 2012. You can reach her at joan@joanmerriam.com.

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