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The Fat Gap: Discussing Obese Pets with Owners


While you’re visiting your family this holiday season, you may run into a few overweight pets.This is a really sensitive issue for pet parents and it’s important to handle the issue properly.

There is something know as the “Fat Gap”. This is when a pet (or person) is overweight, but they (or the animal’s owner) doesn’t realize it. Often this is due to weight sneaking up on our pets, and since we see them everyday, it’s hard to tell if your pets are gaining weight.

I’m not talking about the “the doctor’s ridiculously unrealistic weight scale says a 6’4″ woman should weigh 100 lbs” kind of overweight, I’m talking about “This cat can barely climb into your lap because he’s so big” or “this dog can no longer go outside through the doggy door because he’s too wide” kind of overweight.

First of all, it’s important not to judge. There could be many reasons for the problem. Just as in people, pets can struggle with their weight due to thyroid issues or any other number of health problems. It could be that the owner is doing everything in their power to reduce weight on a pet, but nothing seems to be helping. But, if you’re watching your relatives slip giant turkey legs and pumpkin pies to the dog under the table, it may be time to send them to this article.

Obesity is a disease and it’s defined by an excess of body fat. This can be caused by any combination of factors, including diet, lack of exercise and even depression. The most alarming problems are those that obesity can cause in both dogs and cats. Pets that are obese are more likely to develop serious health problems, including:

  • Reduced lifespan
  • Arthritis and Joint problems
  • Digestive disorders
  • Diminished breathing capacity
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Aggression

The truth is, over 53% of dogs and 58% of cats in the United States are overweight. It’s not all your fault, nor is it all their fault. The only good news about pet obesity is that it can be resolved, relatively quickly, with a little hard work.

[heading style=”2″ color=”#996633″ style_color=”#996633″]How To Approach The Owner[/heading]

When you walk up to a family or friend and say, “Wow, your dog is really fat.” You are inadvertently setting off a chain of potential problems including resentment, frustration, shock and worry about being “judged”. Rather, take a round-about approach:

“I have a dog who was overweight, but we found it was due to a problem with his thyroid. Boy, am I glad I got him into the vet! I didn’t know that thyroid issues could cause problems with weight!”


“I’m curious what you feed your cat? We were free-feeding our cat for awhile, but his weight got so heavy, we had to move back to a controlled diet.”

This is, at least, how I would approach the situation. Obviously use your best judgement and factor in your relationship with your friend. Sometimes it’s best to come right out and say, “Your dog has put on a lot of weight.” Just remember, it may not be their fault and they may be very sensitive about the problem.

[heading style=”2″ color=”#996633″ style_color=”#996633″]Track Your Pet’s Fitness[/heading]

However you choose to approach the situation, it’s important to offer solutions. Even if your friend doesn’t want to hear them, you could sneak these topics into dinner conversation:

There are dozens of fantastic fitness trackers available for dogs. These little devices fit on your pets collar and monitor exactly how much activity they are engaged in while you’re at work. They monitor the types of activity (lying down, sleeping, eating, walking or running) by measuring your pet’s movements. If you’re not sure how far of a walk you’re taking each day, this is a great way to find out. It can help you, and your pet, shed those few extra pounds.

Learn more about a few of our favorites:

[heading style=”2″ color=”#996633″ style_color=”#996633″]Starting an Exercise Program[/heading]

These days, you can buy a treadmill for your pet, take them swimming, go on daily walks, and even do doga (Yoga 4 Dogs )! If you are worried about taking your aggressive dog for a walk, consider buying a treadmill for them. These will allow your pet to get plenty of exercise while you encourage them from the couch.

Companies like PetZen even offer elaborate fitness equipment, including weighted vests, that will help your dog work a little harder if you find they are outpacing you.

If you’re a bicyclist, you may want to consider the Springer, which attaches to your bike and helps keep Fido from getting under the wheel. Be sure you know what your pets can and can’t handle before starting on a bicycling program.

If you have a cat, try taking them out for a walk. You may want to start in the backyard, or even consider building an outdoor enclosure. The goal is to get them up and moving. (Be sure you have them in a SturdiPet Walking Vest or Kitty Harness and Bungee Leash

[heading style=”2″ color=”#996633″ style_color=”#996633″]Evaluate Your Pets Food and Feeding Habits[/heading]

If you’re still feeding a puppy food and your dog just celebrated his third birthday, it’s time to do a feeding inventory. You should evaluate your pets diet at least twice a year to ensure they are eating a diet that is appropriate for them.

Choosing a pet food is very personal, but whether you choose a raw diet or a scientifically designed metabolic diet, you should check with your veterinarian and be sure you don’t move your dogs onto a new food too quickly.

Many pet owners ‘free feed” meaning that your pets have access to food at any time. This may not be the best way to go, but neither might be feeding just once a day. Optimally, your dog and cat should be able to ‘graze” throughout the day, but only with a small amount of food. One way that you can accomplish this is by using an automatic feeder which enables up to five meals to be programmed throughout the day.

[heading style=”2″ color=”#996633″ style_color=”#996633″]Learn about Treats and Supplements[/heading]

Supplements, such as pumpkin, can be a great way to help your dog feel like their full in between feedings. Pumpkin is a low-calorie superfood that can help your pets lose weight – just by making them feel less hungry. Its high moisture content makes it especially valuable to animals who refuse to drink enough water.

Consider exploring single-ingredient treats and specially designed low-calorie treats. For example, at just 1.1 calories per treat, Quickies from The Honest Kitchen make for a high-impact protein punch without packing on the pounds.

Remember our dogs are omnivores and that means carrots, celery and other vegetables are great additions to the treat arsenal. Here is a list of treats that won’t pack on the pounds. Fruits and vegetables can also help your pet feel more “full” in between feedings. Be careful not to give them too much! Here’s a handy guide that discusses healthy fruits and vegetables for pets.

[heading style=”2″ color=”#996633″ style_color=”#996633″]Join a Fitness Club with Your Pet[/heading]

Yes, you can join a fitness club with your pets! The K9 Fit Club® is the nation’s leader in canine and human fitness.  “Certified K9 Fit Club Trainers can make a tremendous and positive impact on pet and human health. Our certification program provides convenient online training, tools, information, a pop up K9 Fit Kit™, and support from K9 Fit Club – everything needed to add to an existing business or a start up business in any community,” says Montgomery.

Getting fit should be a priority in  your lives and your pets lives. We want everyone around for a good, long time!

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