ST. LOUIS, Feb. 28 /PRNewswire/ — From high protein diets to the latest fitness craze, Americans are seemingly obsessed with diet and exercise fads to help them conquer their battle with the bulge. But in all their fervor to adopt a healthy lifestyle, they may be overlooking an important family member who needs help overcoming some weighty issues of his own: the family pet.
Today, obesity among dogs and cats is a leading nutritional disease — veterinarians report at least 25 percent of the pets they examine in private practice are overweight. In addition, in a recent Purina survey veterinarians cited obesity as the greatest health issue facing America’s 120 million pets (34 percent).
Yet despite these statistics, the “State of the American Pet” survey by the Purina Pet Institute revealed that more than 80 percent of pet owners think their pets are the right weight or underweight. This discrepancy illustrates what vets have known for some time: most pet owners are not attuned to their pet’s proper weight.
“Many people simply don’t know their pet is overweight — they think a few extra pounds on a dog or cat is nothing to worry about,” says Aine McCarthy, DVM at the Purina Pet Institute. “In reality, two extra pounds on a standard-size cat is like 20 extra pounds on a 120-pound human.”
The Skinny on Pet Obesity
While there are many causes of obesity in pets, one of the most common Is excess caloric intake coupled with inactivity — in other words, our pets May be eating too much and exercising too little. Whether the result of too Many table scraps, “guesstimates” on portion sizes, or lack of exercise, obesity
predisposes our pets to heart disease, diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders, skeletal stress and digestive and respiratory problems.
The good news is that there are steps pet owners can take to help their pets gain a healthy lifestyle and all the benefits that come with it, including increased energy and better overall health. To help your pet achieve and maintain optimum health, follow these guidelines from the Purina Pet Institute:
1. Rate his weight. A Rib Check(TM) is a quick, reliable way to tell if your pet is carrying a few extra pounds. Perform the following hands-on and visual evaluation once a month:
— Begin by placing both thumbs on your pet’s backbone. Run your fingers along the rib cage. If you can’t easily feel the bony part of each rib, your pet may need to lose weight.
— Stand directly over your dog or cat as he’s standing and look
down. You should see a clearly defined waist behind the ribs. If he doesn’t have an “hour glass” figure, he may be carrying extra
— Check your pet’s profile as well. If you don’t see a clearly
defined abdomen tucked up behind his rib cage, he is probably
2. Visit the veterinarian. Once you’ve given your pet a Rib Check, ask your vet to confirm your suspicion that your pet may be overweight. Then work with your vet to develop and follow a weight loss and/or maintenance program that best meets the needs of your pet. Whether or not your pet has a weight problem, regular veterinary check-ups are essential to his overall health, so follow your vet’s advice when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle for your pet.
3. Provide the right food. If it’s determined your pet has a weight problem, gradually change your pet’s diet to a nutritionally-complete, reduced calorie weight-management formula under your veterinarian’s supervision. For dogs, try Purina Fit & Trim(R) with the Ulti-Pro(TM)Enhanced Protein System, which provides the extra protein needed to minimize muscle mass loss during weight reduction, or Purina
Veterinary Diets(TM) OM Overweight Management(TM) Formula, a low-fat, high-fiber diet available only through veterinarians. For cats, there’s OM-Formula as well as Purina O.N.E.(R) brand cat food’s Reduced Calorie formula.
4. Add exercise. The best weight loss results are achieved when better eating habits are combined with moderate exercise. If you’re a dog owner, begin with three 20-minute walks each week to help your heavy hound drop pounds and maintain an ideal body weight. Cat owners should stimulate their cat with playful activities for at least 15 minutes a day. Cats love to chase objects, from fabric toy mice to scraps of paper. Check with your veterinarian for the type and duration of
exercise appropriate for your pet.
5. Measure it. Many people simply overfeed their pets at meal time without realizing it. Always measure how much food you give your dog or cat. The instructions on pet food packages offer a good starting point, but you may also want to talk with your veterinarian to determine the correct portion as pets have different nutritional needs depending on their breed, age, size and overall health. Keep in mind the amount your pet should be getting may be smaller than what she was getting before so monitor her response and adjust accordingly. Pets, like people, are individuals.
6. Feed less, more often. The food you have measured in the morning as your pet’s total daily allotment can be divided among several small “meals” throughout the day. Not only does this keep your pet’s metabolism running, but it may also reduce begging by your pet and stimulate weight loss.
7. Trim treats and scrap table scraps. Reduce calorie-laden treats in your pet’s diet; providing the wrong food reward may threaten your pet’s health in the long run. Instead use your time and attention as rewards. If you prefer to continue providing food as a reward, stick to commercially prepared treats or substitute pieces of low-calorie food. Treats must be included in your pet’s total calorie allowance. Refrain from giving your pet any table scraps — such people food may be hard on your pet’s waistline as well.
8. Track feeding. Food diaries are often helpful for people on a diet, and the same holds true for our pets. Start a log of any food given to your pet. Everyone in the family should be involved, and record all meals, treats, snacks, etc. Simply seeing these eating habits on paper can provide the impetus for a lifestyle change.
9. Remember: Variety is not the spice of life. A common myth about pet nutrition is that pets need variety in their diet. In reality, too much variety can be taxing on their digestive system. A pet’s nutritional health depends on receiving the correct amounts and proportions of nutrients from the six required groups: water, protein, fat, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins. With the exception of water, commercial pet foods identified as 100 percent complete and balanced contain all of the required nutrients and in the proper
10. Make a commitment. Owning a pet is a huge commitment that requires patience. Remember that weight loss takes time if it is being done in an acceptable, safe manner so don’t expect to see immediate results. Make a commitment to your pet’s health and stick with it. “Weight loss and maintenance of the new weight are unlikely if the owner is not committed to maintaining their pet’s healthy lifestyle,” says McCarthy.
For more information about pet nutrition and health, visit
Based at Purina’s headquarters in St. Louis, the Purina Pet Institute is the embodiment of Purina’s commitment to achieve a higher quality of life for dogs and cats through scientific discovery and the enhancement of the pet/owner relationship.
CONTACT: Kerry Lyman of Ralston Purina, 314-982-2094; or Paula Thornton-Greear of Golin/Harris for Purina Pet Institute, 312-729-4372.
*National Nutrition Month(R) is a registered trademark of the American Dietetic Association.