Pets, Places, & Things, Points on Pets

An Inconvenient Truth

Did you know that an estimated 45% of U.S. pets are overweight or obese?  In many ways our pets are suffering alongside us humans in the obesity epidemic, and for similar causes: overeating, eating the wrong foods, lack of adequate exercise, and simple ignorance about the causes and prevention of obesity.

You may be weary of all the “obesity epidemic” stuff in the news, but if you love your pet, you should know that being overweight can mean premature death, and nobody wants that!  The Purina PetCare Center performed a study on 48 dogs over a 14-year period and found that overweight or obese dogs live 2 years less than dogs at healthy weight!  Think about saying goodbye to your furry friend two years earlier than you otherwise would have to!  Obesity also contributes to a host of health conditions and diseases, such as arthritis and joint pain; diabetes and insulin resistance; ligament injury; heart disease; respiratory illness; kidney disease; and cancer.  And it’s not a matter of “if” these issues will arise, it’s more “when.”  (Think of the vet bills, if nothing else!)

The tough part is that we often don’t notice our pets gaining weight since it can happen gradually.  Our Labradoodle Polly tends to gain weight in the winter because she gets much less exercise than she does in warmer months – mostly because we don’t like standing around at the freezing cold dog park or taking long walks when it’s icy.  But for Polly, even a few pounds add extra strain to her hips, and this makes her hip dysplasia and arthritis pain even worse.

Many dog owners also don’t realize that “fat pets” have become so common that a few extra pounds actually seem normal.  And there also seems to be a correlation between pets who are overweight and owners who are as well, perhaps because the lack of exercise affects everyone.  I know it does for me in the wintertime!

Now that warmer weather is here, though, we all should commit to more outdoor exercise.  However, we may also need to reexamine the food we feed our pets.  Many pet foods these days are higher in calories (because of fillers and additives), and to make things worse, people often overfeed their pets.

Here are some tips on leading your pet back on the road to a healthy weight:

1)    Check the label on your pet’s food.  Shop around and ask your vet for recommendations on foods that have the best caloric content.

2)    Make sure you are feeding your pet the correct amount.  I know I used to overfeed Polly because I thought I was “spoiling” or “treating” her, and yet I wasn’t doing her any favors that way.

3)    Don’t starve your pet, though – weight loss should be gradual.

4)    Same goes with exercise – if your pet is out of shape, don’t force her into a rigorous, sudden exercise routine or she could injure herself. Start slow.

5)    For cats, make sure they get exercise within the home.  Buy or make toys that get them running around.

6)    Go easy on the treats.  These are often “hidden” sources of unnecessary calories. Give your pet affection instead!

7)    Keep your pets hydrated.

8)    Don’t let your pets “graze” throughout the day—they’ll end up consuming too much food.

9)    If you feel you’re doing everything right and yet your pet still isn’t slimming down, visit your vet to make sure there isn’t an underlying medical condition, such as an underactive thyroid, to blame.

10)Don’t give your pets human food as a treat!  This can not only add to their weight, it can also be very dangerous, as many human foods are toxic to pets.

11)See more tips here:

12)Here’s a guide online to determining whether or not your pet is overweight:

So be vigilant, help your pet lose weight if he needs to, and enjoy more years of happy health!

Written by: Ashley Denham Busse

GREAT NEWS FOR A CHANGE! and King Street Cats would like to thank everyone who cared and shared during “Spring2ACTion” last month as we raised money and awareness for King Street Cats! Team “Doggywalker.com4cats” reached our goal of $5000 — we raised a total of $5016!  King Street Cats finished 4th place for total donations (winning a $500 grant) and 6th place for total donors, and together we raised an incredible $46,982 to rescue, provide safe haven, and veterinary care for Alexandria’s cats and kittens until they find their forever homes.  See for more information.

Ashley Denham Busse has worked part-time for since 2006. is a professional pet-sitting company located in Old Town Alexandria, celebrating more than 13 years of providing daily walks and customized in-home pet care. Visit or email 

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