How Much Is Your Pet’s Obesity Costing You?

Fat dog drawing

(photo credit)

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?

(photo credit)

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?

So your dog is fat – now what?

6698251655_b328d57b69_z

Image from Flickr user Andy Henry Photography.

I recently sharing a co-working space with another dog lover, so of course we end up talking about our pets. Turns out, he has a 170 pound Newfoundland.

Let me repeat that. One hundred. And seventy. Pounds. Of big, slobbery, furry dog. That’s a good forty pounds more than I weigh (okay, thirty-five pounds, but STILL).

He admits she’s overweight, and we talked for a while about some of the tools he’s using to address the issue. After speaking to him, I came upon these 5 tips to help your pet lose weight. My colleague is already doing almost everything on the list – exercise is a problem for Freya, as he doesn’t have access to a pool and she’s a typical large, lazy dog – but I really liked the article for two big reasons:

Human companions of overweight pets really do need to consult with a vet before changing their dog or cat’s lifestyle or feeding schedule. Your vet deals with these issues every day – she will be able to eliminate any potential medical causes of weight gain, like hypothyroidism, and help you formulate a plan to slim down your pet without endangering his or her health.

Weight gain may be due to behavioral issues. Just as humans can overeat or be inactive because we’re depressed, bored, or stressed, dogs and cats may gain weight because they’re understimulated, or have dominance issues with other humans or pets in our homes.

As for my new friend with the “Rubenesque” Newfie, he’s started taking her to doggie daycare once or twice a week, and substituting some of her regular dog food with green beans, on the advice of his vet.

I’m looking forward to seeing her slim down as he brings her into the office!