Pet Obesity Is A Real Problem — Here’s How To Keep The Pounds Off Your Pooch

pet obesity

Staying healthy is a goal for many families, but with busy schedules, it’s not always easy to achieve. Lack of exercise can cause weight gain, and if you’ve got a family pet, chances are they might be pudgy, too. Dr. Ernie Ward is a noted veterinarian and the Founder of The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. Dr. Ward has teamed up with Rachael Ray’s Nutrish, a healthy pet food line, as one of Rachael’s Vet Experts. Dr. Ward spoke with Celebrity Parents about pet fitness, obesity, and how everyone (including your pets) can get healthy again.

I have to admit that my black lab/pit bull Sam is on the chunky side.

Many pets are overweight. In my 17 year career as a veterinarian, I try to marry fitness with both people and their pets. In a recent national pet obesity study, it found that 44% of dogs were overweight or obese. It was discovered that 33 million dogs are overweight, and cats are worse – 57% of cats are overweight. The number has been creeping upwards, sadly.

How many calories should the average pet eat?

A 20 pound indoor dog should eat between 350-400 calories and cats should 180-200 calories. One little known fact: You typically can’t feed your pet according to pet food label instructions. Those guidelines are made for active, adult un-spayed (intact) pets. Spaying or neutering your pet changes their metabolism, generally resulting in a 25% to 30% reduction in the amount of calories they require each day.

How did you become a Rachael Ray Nutrish Vet Expert?

I am the Founder for The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. I’ve been on the Rachael Ray show many times to speak about pet health issues and obesity. Rachael Ray works with a specialized team of animal nutritionists to create a well-balanced healthy pet food. Some critics have actually said there are too few calories per cup, but actually it is on target for what pets should be eating.

What has the experience been like working with Rachael Ray’s Nutrish?

I love working with Rachael because she is dedicated to pet health. Everyone knows she is a huge pet lover, and her dog Isaboo is the inspiration for the Nutrish line. Rachael Ray’s Nutrish gives back 100% of its profits to animal shelters. In fact, Rachael’s Rescue, her website dedicated to helping animals in need, donated 10 tons of food to animal rescue. It’s incredible what she is doing to keep pets healthy.

To keep pets healthy, how many times a day should they eat?

Two times a day is sufficient. Eating several small meals helps keep a pet’s metabolism ramped-up. If pets eat one large meal a day, then their bodies adapt to hold onto the calories, which turn into excess fat. Table food is a no-no, of course, unless it’s vegetables.

Every overweight pet ultimately pays a price. There’s nothing worse than seeing your pet suffer from crippling arthritic pain, endure the rigors of diabetes, or experience the labored breathing of respiratory disease. These diseases are incurable and very expensive yet largely preventable.

What can people do to help their pets slim down?

We have become a nation of couch potatoes, and in turn, we have turned our pets into lap potatoes. The answer is simple and the same for humans: eat healthy and exercise. Even worse, we’ve normalized fat. People and pets are heavier than they’ve ever been and we’re starting to accept it as “normal.”  For example, I’m five foot eight and weigh 138 pounds. Everyone thinks I’m too thin, and that my dog, Sandy (a beagle/lab mix) is too, when we are actually at our healthy weight.

Treats should be limited and they should be healthy. Rachael Ray’s Isaboo Booscotti treats are healthy and low-calorie. Another great treat option is carrots and crunchy veggies. Go for walks, and be active. We all want our fur buddies to be around – and healthy – for as long as possible.


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