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INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — According to an Association for Pet Obesity Prevention survey, about 60% of cats and 56% of dogs are classified as overweight or obese.  That’s more than 56 million cats here in North America and more than 50 million dogs! Tom Dock from Noah’s Animal Hospitals joined Indy Style with Indy Eleven mascot Nike to let us know that Pet Obesity Prevention Day is today Oct. 13.

Like their human family members, overweight pets are prone to a number of potential health issues.  Diabetes, orthopedic issues, respiratory problems, and even a shortened life span are all possible concerns for our chunky furry friends.

Energy dense foods, yummy treats and snacks, and a more sedentary lifestyle have contributed to the on-going epidemic of obesity in our pets.  And, yes, the on-going SARS- CoV-2 pandemic has also impacted the waistlines of both pets and people!

 While it is important to help our pets lose weight, just like us, it’s important to do it correctly and under professional supervision.  Before starting any weight loss plan, talk to your veterinarian about your pet’s overall health.  In some cases, underlying metabolic issues, like hypothyroidism, could be a factor in your pet’s condition.

Don’t fall for marketing gimmicks when it comes to “diet” fads or foods for our furry friends.  Only dog foods with less than 3100 kcal/kg or cat foods with less than 3250 kcal/kg can legally display “light”, “lite”, or “low calorie” claim.

Some owners are misled by the marketing of grain free diets and assume these are lower in calories.  In reality, many grain-free diets end up having more calories per serving due to higher fat content OR carbohydrate ingredients that are higher in calories than grains.

After finding the right diet to help your pet, consider an exercise plan as well.   Just remember, your overweight Lab is not going to be able to run 2 miles on the first day!!  Take it slow, watch how the pet responds to the additional walks/runs/activities, and stay in communication with your veterinarian.

Cats are a little more challenging since many owners might be reluctant to try and walk their cat.  Consider simply encouraging more activity with your cat by using interactive toys, like Kitty Teasers, or specially designed feeders that only dispense a small amount of food after the cat turns, flips, or otherwise engages with the toy.

Regular check-ins with your pet’s doctor and weigh-ins are also a must!  Don’t be discouraged when the pounds aren’t flying off your pet…pets should not lose more than about ¼ to 1 lb per week depending on their species and breed.  That means if your cat is 3 lbs overweight, it might be 3-4 months before that weight will be lost!