Fat cats and plump pups

Los Angeles Times - - THE PETS ISSUE - By Tre’vell An­der­son trev­ell.an­der­son@latimes.com

Garfield is not the only fat cat around. Ac­cord­ing to the Assn. for Pet Obe­sity Preven­tion, more than 50% of the na­tion’s cats and dogs are over­weight. And just as con­cern­ing, more than 90% of their own­ers don’t rec­og­nize that their pet is car­ry­ing around ex­tra pounds. “Peo­ple au­to­mat­i­cally think a fat cat is a happy cat,” says Ernie Ward, owner of Sea­side An­i­mal Care in Cal­abash, N.C. “But it’s not cute. It’s killing.” Ward founded the or­ga­ni­za­tion in 2005 af­ter re­al­iz­ing that many vet­eri­nar­i­ans were not talk­ing to pet own­ers about obe­sity. Ten years later, he says, vets are fi­nally hav­ing those nec­es­sary con­ver­sa­tions. “It’s an emo­tional land mine,” Ward says. “You don’t know when you’re go­ing to step on the wrong but­ton be­cause peo­ple in­her­ently have a prob­lem with ques­tions [about how they’re] feed­ing pets be­cause we equate love with food and treats.” Not un­like hu­mans, pets can face obe­sity be­cause of too much food and too lit­tle ex­er­cise, says Eve Flores, a vet­eri­nar­ian and co-owner of DTLAvets with Leia Cas­tañeda. Over­weight an­i­mals are more prone to a host of health con­di­tions, in­clud­ing arthri­tis, high blood pres­sure and blind­ness. Be­low are some ideas from Ward, Flores and Cas­tañeda for own­ers look­ing to im­prove pets’ health:

An­nual check­ups

Many pet own­ers do not take their dogs or cats to the vet­eri­nar­ian un­til some­thing is wrong. “We can’t prac­tice pre­ven­tive medicine if we’re not see­ing the pets,” Flores says.

Pets should be seen by the vet­eri­nar­ian at least once a year for the doc­tor to eval­u­ate the an­i­mals — and ed­u­cate the own­ers.

Read la­bels

“The most im­por­tant de­ci­sion a pet owner makes ev­ery day is what they feed their pet,” Ward says.

Flores en­cour­ages pet own­ers to look at the in­gre­di­ents listed on food pack­ages. If any of the first three items is un­pro­nounce­able or hard to un­der­stand, don’t buy it.

Calo­ries count

“Pay at­ten­tion to the amount you’re ac­tu­ally feed­ing your dog,” Cas­tañeda says, adding that own­ers should be aware that treats have calo­ries too. She also says that diet food and pet foods that are grain free or raw have be­come mar­ket­ing tools more than health­ful al­ter­na­tives.


Ward uses a sim­ple equa­tion to get through to his clients: “Fat equals in­flam­ma­tion, which equals dis­ease which equals early death.” To avoid that, ex­er­cise is a must, he says. “It is as sim­ple as walk­ing your dog 30 min­utes a day, in­ter­act­ing with your cat for five min­utes three times a day.”

Flores says ex­tend­ing walk­ing or play times by 10 min­utes can do the trick.

Getty Im­ages

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