Is Your Dog Or Cat Obese?

Overweight cat on a scale

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Now that we know how expensive and risky obesity can be for our pets, the first question is how to figure out if your dog or cat is overweight or obese.

What an obese pet looks like

The simplest indicator of whether or not your pet is overweight is if you can see a waist – if you can, your dog is probably a healthy weight. If you can’t, it’s time to ask your vet about how Fido can drop a few pounds. provides a simple visual chart for what a dog or cat’s waistline should look like:

How to tell if your dog or cat is overweight

More specifically, your pet is a healthy weight if:

  • his or her stomach doesn’t sag
  • you can see his or her waist from above

Your pet may be overweight or obese if:

  • they have a flat, not rounded, back
  • there’s no discernable waist

What an obese pet feels like

Since many dogs and cats have thick coats of long fur, it can be difficult to assess your pet’s weight by sight alone.

  • You should be able to feel your dog or cat’s ribs through their fur.
  • Your dog or cat shouldn’t have a belly you can grasp with your hand.

Now that we have a better idea of whether or not our pets qualify as overweight or obese, we’re ready to do something about it. Future posts will discuss dietary changes you can make to slim down your pup, and exercise for even the laziest house cat.

How Much Is Your Pet’s Obesity Costing You?

Fat dog drawing

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A recent New York Times article turned up some shocking statistics about pet obesity:

The average cost of veterinary care for a diabetic dog or cat in 2011 was more than $900, according to Petplan USA, a pet insurance company. Treatment for arthritis and cruciate ligament tears, which can be caused by the strain of an overweight frame that weakens joints, especially in dogs, cost pet owners an average of $2,000.

Half of American dogs and cats are overweight or obese – and the costs are more than financial. Health problems relating to obesity cause great physical pain to our pets and emotional pain to us.

How do you know if your pet is overweight? And what can you do about it? In the next week we’ll cover both of these topics, and offer some tips and tricks from real pet parents. Stay tuned!

Can You Trust Your Dog Off Leash?

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A recent guest editorial in my local paper stirred up a pack of angry comments on the practice of letting dogs exercise off leash. Living in Portland, OR, the city with the highest number of dog parks per capita, there’s bound to be controversy over any proposal to allow dogs access to even more of our fair city.

There were some legitimate objections, and very few defenders of the author’s proposal to allow dogs off-leash on our local hiking trails. What do you think? Do you exercise your dog off-leash? Should well-behaved dogs be allowed to run off-leash? Or are the risks of injury and ill behavior too high?

5 Outrageous Pet Luxuries

Cat on Mercedes hood

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You may think that most Americans, after five years of a recession, are cutting back. But we’re still shelling out on our pets – we spent $51 billion on them in 2011! Here are some things pet parents are spending big bucks on:

1. Designer pet carriers

The Louis Vuitton Baxter dog carrier - a $2,000 indulgence.

The Louis Vuitton Baxter dog carrier may be sold out, but it retails for $2,000. Would you spend that much for something your pup might poop in?

2. Expensive litter boxes

The $180 Modkat litter box

When I first saw the Modkat top entry litter box, I wanted one. Badly. Until I saw the price tag – $180 for a box for my $20 Humane Society cat to crap in. The design is spectacular, especially having the entry at the top. This seemed like a great way to keep my dog from snacking on “Kitty Roca”, and the box itself, available in stylish colors, is actually nice to look at. But a litter box will always stink, and there’s no amount of design that would make me want to show one off.

After some poking around, I found another top entry litter box called the Clevercat:

The Clevercat top entry litter box

The design is basically just a Rubbermaid tub with a hole cut in the top, and doesn’t have the same features as the Modkat, but at one sixth the price, I can live with it.

3. Gourmet dog food

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Companies like Lucky Dog cuisine charge more to deliver homemade, “human grade” dog food to your home than the average American family on food stamps is allotted to feed actual humans.

Meanwhile, the Dog Food Advisor site lists the best foods for your dog based on actual ingredients and real dietary needs – and many of the highest rated foods are commercially available and not at all “gourmet”.

4. Modern pet furniture

The $600 DenHaus pet house

It’s a lovely piece of furniture, but would you spend $600 for the DenHaus pet den? The only furniture I’ve spent that much on are my mattress and my sofa – neither of which my dog are allowed on!

For those who want to live in a chic looking home, I understand the appeal of high design pet furniture. But the gig is up as soon as a guest notices the tumbleweeds of dog hair lurking under the coffee table or the hairball recently deposited on the living room rug.

5. Pet spas

Spoiled pup!

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Searching for “pet spa” on Google returns more than 33 million results. We love pampering our pets, and grooming is big business. From cat massages to dog manicures, even high-end pet-friendly hotels are now offering services like blueberry facials.

What do you think? Are we spending too much on our pets? Or are we just showing affection for our pets by treating them like the family members they are?

How to Plan the Best Summer Vacation For Your Pet (and You)!

Jake in his favorite mode of transportation, a 1980 Turbo Scout II!

If you haven’t already started making plans for summer travel, it’s time to start! Whether you’re planning a “staycation” at a local beach or dusting off your passport for an international flight, it’s never too early to start making plans for your pets.

With or without Fido?

When trying to decide whether or not to take your pet with you on vacation, the two main considerations will be cost and hassle. If you’re flying overseas, quarantine requirements usually make bringing your pet along a no-go. Even Hawaii requires animals to be quarantined a minimum of five days.

If your plans involve air travel, keep in mind the cost of transporting a pet. United has now adopted Continental’s PetSafe program, which most experts consider a worthwhile service. However, the costs are now significantly higher for animals not traveling in the cabin. Be sure to compare costs before choosing an airline for your and your pet’s trip.

Pet-friendly vacations

If you’re bringing your pet with you, there are some great resources available online for you and your pup! DogJaunt is a comprehensive blog dedicated to bringing your small dog with you – starring the writer’s own Cavalier King Charles Spaniel:

photo courtesy DogJaunt

Other helpful pet travel resources include:

When you’re out and about, you can use this Dog Park Finder app if you have a smartphone to find convenient, close-by places for your dog to do his business.

Kennels vs. pet sitters

If you’ve done the math and figured out that bringing your pet with you on vacation is just too expensive or complicated, you should start making plans for where your pet will stay in your absence.

Cats and other small pets usually aren’t good candidates for boarding. Dogs who are immune compromised, not especially social with other dogs, or prone to separation anxiety usually don’t thrive in kennels.

If your pup would rather stay at home, or even sleep over with a friend, what’s the best way to pick someone to help? Yelp reviews are written by strangers, and notoriously unreliable. The best way to find your pet’s home away from home, or someone who will care for your furry friend as well as you do, is to ask a friend to pet sit.

Once you’ve found someone you can trust to pet sit, make sure they know all your pet’s likes, dislikes, medications, and what do to in the event your dog or cat gets sick. A comprehensive pet care checklist that you can share online or on paper can make sure everyone’s on the same page.

Don’t forget the meet-and-greet before you leave – this will help your pet feel more comfortable with their caretaker while you’re gone.

Good luck, and we hope your summer is as great as this guy’s!

Surefire Way To Keep Your Dog From Destroying Your House!

Do you sometimes need to occupy your dog at a moment’s notice? trainer Mikkel Becker shows you the benefits of giving your dog a Kong — and how to stuff one.

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Top 3 Awesomest Scary Movie Dogs

3. Cujo in Cujo, 1983


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I’ll be honest, it’s been so long since I’ve seen Cujo that I hardly remember it. It’s also difficult for me to reconcile the main canine with all the Saint Bernards I’ve known since – affable, gentle giants all. That said, Cujo was probably the first evil movie dog I remember to rock the “covered in Jell-O” look that would become a staple for subsequent pups of peril.

2. Zombie Doberman in Resident Evil, 2002


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While most viewers of the first Resident Evil movie are more likely to remember Milla Jovovich’s shower scene than the canine cameos, the zombie dobermans were my favorite part of this movie (okay, the boots were fierce, too). Dobies covered in cherry Jell-O? Sold.


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1. Vampire Pomeranian in Blade: Trinity, 2004


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By the time the third Blade movie came out, we were all in on the joke. Professional wrestler as “actor”? Check. Gratuitous scenery chewing by indie sweetheart Parker Posey? Yup. And “Pac-Man”, the genetically engineered vampire Pomeranian.

Because who doesn’t like a good Pomeranian evil sidekick?


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Happy Friday the 13th!

Traveling In Style, Or Abuse?


This week, a Washington State Patrol trooper took to Twitter to show us how not to travel with your dog. Dogs on motorcycles and scooters are undeniably cute, and there was an older couple in my neighborhood who used to bop around locally on an old Vespa with a Pomeranian in a special bucket and harness. I like to think that this form of travel, with a dog who can handle the stimulation and temptation, is safe. Who doesn’t smile at the image of a dog in a motorcycle sidecar? But now I’m wondering about what the minimum restraints should be, and if there should be a legal standard.

Did the ticketed motorcyclist in Washington cross the line?