(Look for this article in the Observer-Reporter!)
Every year people gravitate toward a healthier lifestyle, and extending that to one’s pets is just as beneficial. Obesity has become a problem for our animal companions over the years. High-calorie snacks and treats are consistent elements contributing to a pet’s unhealthy weight. Treats are an important part of training, rewarding, and T.L.C. with pets. What you might not know is that there are many healthy and fun alternatives to reaching for a bag of Milk-Bones. The goal is not only to replace high-calorie snacks with healthier ones, but to reduce overall calorie and fat intake from extra treats to near zero. These foods can be baked or steamed, cut up into small pieces, and should only be given in small portions; this will prevent an overload of carbohydrates and potential choking. You can give the vegetables and fruits by themselves, or you could mash or puree them to mix in with their prepared food at regular meal times.
Examples of healthy, low-calorie dog and cat treats are: Apples (without seeds or core), Blueberries, Strawberries, Watermelon (without seeds), Cantaloupe, Frozen Bananas (cut in ½ for larger dogs, sliced for smaller dogs), Frozen Green Beans, Carrots (raw or cooked) Sweet Potato, Squash, Zucchini, Lettuce, Spinach, Popcorn (unsalted and unbuttered), Catnip or cat grass.
There are also foods to avoid due to their toxicity in canine and feline breeds, including: Grapes and Cranberries, Raisins and Craisins, Garlic, Onions, Avocado, Tomato including stems, leaves, and unripe tomatoes, Mushrooms, Fruits with pits (i.e. peaches, cherries, and plums), Nuts (particularly macadamia).
When trying out new treat combinations, be sure to focus on those that are low in fat, while limiting those that are not. Limiting treats while feeding a balanced diet can help maintain your pet’s healthy weight.
Almost 30% of the canine and feline populations are obese. Obesity is a nutritional disease, defined as an accumulation of excess body fat. This is the most common preventable disease among these populations. However, middle-aged, neutered, indoor animals tend to have a higher risk of becoming obese. As an owner, you can recognize that your pet is becoming obese because they will accumulate excess body fat, and will eventually be unwilling or unable to exercise.
Once it has been identified that a pet is obese, it is important to begin treatment. Your veterinarian can discuss adjustments to feeding habits for the benefit of your pet’s weight using specific nutritional products, measured portions, and scheduled meal frequencies. It is very important to consult with a veterinarian before making these changes because simply reducing your pet’s volume of food can lead to malnourishment and result in additional health concerns.
Obesity negatively impacts your pet’s health and obese animals live shorter lives. For example, lean dogs outlive obese dogs of the same breed, usually by 6-12 months. Obesity affects multiple areas of your pet’s body such as your pet’s bones, joints, heart, and lungs. Obese animals develop an increased risk for things such as cancers, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and anesthetic complications. It impairs your pet’s overall long-term prognosis and quality of life. It is important to consult with your veterinarian if you have concerns with your pet’s weight so you can work to lengthen your pet’s lifespan and enjoy more time with your four-legged family member.