Ask The Vet: Super-Sized Pets

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america is home to the most obese people in the world. according to the centers for disease control and prevention, a staggering 33 percent of american adults are obese, and obesity-related deaths have climbed to more than 300,000 a year, second only to tobacco-related deaths. so it is no surprise pets may walk in their owner's footsteps.

the association for pet obesity prevention reports that nearly half of the nation's pets are classified as overweight or obese by a veterinary healthcare provider, including 43 percent of dogs and 53 percent of cats. that's roughly 85 million pets!

pet owners often don't take this condition seriously. but the reality is obesity can cause or exacerbate osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, respiratory problems, heart disease, high blood pressure and many forms of cancer. a recent study by purina found that overweight animals lived 1.8 years fewer than their leaner counterparts. are we killing our own pets with kindness? too much food and not enough exercise is the recipe for disaster. caloric intake should match metabolic need. following the instructions on the back of a bag of pet food is not always the best guideline. and snacks add up. one large milkbone is 112 calories! an ounce of cheddar cheese fed to a 20-pound dog is the rough equivalent of one-and-a-half hamburgers for a human. for a 10-pound cat, that same ounce of cheese is the equivalent of three-and-a-half hamburgers. on top of that, city dwelling animals tend to be couch potatoes.

most pet owners would do anything to keep their furry friend healthy. a 30-minute romp in the park can go a long way to keeping your dog mentally and physically fit. there are many interesting cat toys that stimulate play behavior and burn calories in your kitty.

if you think your pet is pudgy, work with your veterinarian to formulate a diet and exercise program. your vet may want to run some tests to make sure your companion is healthy and rule out underlying disorders, like thyroid disease. cats in particular need to be under the guidance of your veterinary health care team, as they are prone to serious liver problems if they lose weight too rapidly.

oct. 14 is national pet obesity day. many pet-food manufacturers are hosting weight loss challenges to motivate you to go out and get your animal fit. doing so could add two years to your pet's life. sounds like a mutually beneficial investment to me!


dr. robin brennen is vice president of program operations and chief of veterinary services at bideawee, 410 e. 38th st.

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