It's bad enough that most of us have to struggle with managing our own weight. But what do you do when you suspect your pet has a weight problem too?
Well, you can take heart that you're not alone. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) -- yes, there is such an organization! -- more than half of all cats and dogs are overweight! In fact, cats have more weight problems than dogs, the organization says.
The association, which is a non-profit group of veterinarians and other animal health experts, runs an annual survey based on "patients" at scores of veterinary clinics. Individual pet owners are also invited to take part.
In the latest study, published a couple of months ago, 59% of cats and 54% of dogs -- more than 90 million animals -- were said to be obese.
"Obesity continues to be the greatest health threat to dogs and cats.” says APOP Founder, veterinarian Dr. Ernie Ward. “Obesity is a disease that kills millions of pets prematurely, creates immeasurable pain and suffering, and costs pet owners tens of millions of dollars in avoidable medical costs."
One problem is that many veterinarians and even more owners don’t recognize their pets are overweight. Obviously, there's no standard correct weight -- it depends on the breed as well as the size of the animal.
But ideal weight ranges for popular dog breeds (in lbs) are: Labradors 65-80; German Shepherd 75-95; Yorkshire Terrier 7 or less; Golden Retriever 65-75; Beagle 18-30; Boxer 50-75; Bulldogs 40-50; Dachshunds 8-10; Mini Poodle 11-17; Shih tzus 8-16.
For cats, rough estimates are: Regular domestic cat 8-10; Persian 7-12; Siamese 5-10; and Maine Coon 10-25.
However, that's still a very wide range. So, try the touch test. The definition of a pet that's at about the right weight is one whose ribs, spine and other bones are easily felt, without necessarily being clearly visible. They should have a waist, towards the hind quarters, when viewed from above. Sometimes, they may look quite muscular.
Overweight animals typically have a sagging abdomen and the waist appears distended when viewed from above. If you can grab a handful of fat, the animal is obese!
So how you can you put an animal on a diet, without causing too much distress? Well, first you should take professional advice from an animal health expert.
Just as with humans, the sort of thing they're likely to recommend include calorie counting based on what's called Resting Energy Requirements (RER). If your pet is active, this should result in weight loss. And, of course, exercise is important for the general health of your Pet. There's much more to learn, and a visit to the APOP websiteis an excellent starting point.