t was bound to happen. It was only a matter of time before we went from overweight adults to overweight children to – you guessed it – overweight pets. Yes, in case you’re wondering, your dog Fido isn’t supposed to resemble a beach ball. He’s supposed to know how to “roll over,” not “roll away.”
According to a survey of pet owners and veterinarians in the United States, 59.5 per cent of cats and 55.8 per cent of dogs are overweight. In India, the problem isn’t quite as bad, but just wait a few years and you’ll hear pet owners complaining about having to widen their doorways.
This is really a sad state of affairs, as I tell my wife every evening, when she feeds our dog, Legacy, for the 15th time. Legacy is good at begging and my wife isn’t good at saying “no.”
When my wife is away, do you think Legacy comes to me begging for more food? Nope, she just goes to sleep, because she knows that I’m more likely to take her out for a run than give her extra food.
Most pet owners in America don’t mean to over-feed their pets. They just treat dogs and cats like they would anyone else who lounges on their furniture. “Hey Rover,” they say. “Care for another beer? What about some cheese curls? Just don’t spoil your appetite, buddy, because we’re having your favorite for dinner: pizza.”
Part of the problem, of course, is that pet foods are too high in calories. Pet food companies don’t seem to realize that a dog or cat doesn’t need many calories in its regular food, especially when it’s planning to have a high-calorie dessert. After you include snacks and appetizers, the average pet consumes enough calories in a day to make George Foreman envious.
But it’s not just overeating that causes pets to gain weight. It’s also lack of exercise. Most pets get only as much exercise as their owners do, which can be a little or a lot, depending on how far the refrigerator is from the sofa.
Most domestic dogs do go for regular walks, but considering how much theyeat, what they really need is a gym membership. An hour on the treadmill would do the trick, though they’d also benefit from a little weight training. Dogs have muscles, too, you know.
Cats, on the other hand, are the laziest pets in the world, even lazier than fish. If you have a cat and you want to give it some exercise, I have only one piece of advice for you: get a dog. Having both a cat and dog will give them both some much-needed exercise. But after a week or two, they will get used to each other and decide that peace is better than exercise.
Perhaps you’re wondering why it’s important to care about a pet’s weight. Perhaps you’re asking yourself, “So what if my dog can’t fit into his silk pajamas? I’ll just buy him another size.”
Well, the answer is simple: an overweight pet is susceptible to a number of serious health problems, including heart disease, hypertension, arthritis and diabetes, and if you think that’s bad, wait till you see the vet’s bill.
But don’t worry. There are many ways to get your pets in shape. Here are just five:
1. Limit the amount of television they watch. Ten hours a day is usually sufficient.
2. Serve them only low-calorie drinks, such as light beer and diet soft drinks.
3. Avoid giving them too much dessert, no more than a scoop of ice cream or two gulab jamuns at a time.
4. Hire a personal trainer. It may seem expensive, but not as expensive as open heart surgery.
5. Most importantly, learn to say “no” to them – or else you’ll be saying “yes” to higher vet bills.