That’s what it says on Jimmy’s vet visit papers.
Jimmy is 35 pounds, and the vet thinks he should be about a 30 pound dog. That means we’ve been handed the heavy responsibility of trimming 1/7th of his body weight.
He’s not alone, you know. 54% of this country’s cats and dogs are overweight or obese, which more than anything else I see as an indicator of unhealthy practices in the home. With kids, you can blame marketing and school food, to some extent. But dogs and cats depend on their humans for food and exercise.
There are even fat camps for dogs. Check this one out, in Morristown NJ:
Pets are susceptible to all the weight-related issues humans are: diabetes, kidney issues, heart disease, joint pain, osteoporosis.
And, with pets as with humans, the real issues are:
- quantity of food eaten: treats, table scraps
- quality of food eaten: human junk food, overly processed food, dog chow that is mostly carb rather than protein
- exercise frequency and intensity: not getting out enough, not getting to run and play
The thing is, we Eltons get plenty of exercise— outside the house. I go to the gym or to the basketball courts, the kids have practices and games and recess and gym class. Once at home, we’re pretty sedentary creatures, and Jimmy has always fit in perfectly. This dog, I kid you not, goes to bed (BED bed, like even if the rest of us are still up he goes to the bedroom) around 11pm, gets up briefly with Cassidy to eat whatever she leaves in her cereal bowl, then goes back to bed until about 1pm. He just doesn’t have an active nature. Walking him around the block can take 20 minutes because he is content to sniff and meander.
He also tends to get the leftovers from meals and whatever Cass drops on the floor, which is a lot. Kid is a slob.
We’ve recently made some moves to better dog food for him. More details on that over the next few days, but generally speaking, you should look for ingredient lists that have:
- whole meat sources as its top ingredients, rather than corn or grain based sources.
- no generic meats— should read beef, or chicken, or lamb, or whatever, not “meat meal”
- no corn gluten meal, a filler commonly found in lower quality foods
- human grade ingredients, for quality control
- no artificial colors or preservatives
- no sugars or sweeteners
Note, feeding instructions are generally for the “most demanding” life stage, so we may be overfeeding by as much as 25%. And it’s not like most pet foods list calorie counts, anyway. (This website does show calorie counts for pet foods, check it out.)
A quick internet search suggests that dogs will love green beans as a treat substitute. I cannot confirm or deny at this time, but Jimmy loved a few bites of pineapple as an after-dinner treat tonight.
With pet food as with so many things, as a nation we’ve caved to the cult of cheap. Cheap pet food is full of non-nutritionally-sound corn fillers that are make for round little bellies. Add that to a chronic lack of exercise and we have a nation of fat cats and dogs.
It’s not like cats and dogs can run out to the store and buy better food. Or hit the gym on their way to work. They depend on us for the quality of their lives. And the quantity: an obese dog is just not going to live as long as one that’s a healthy weight. Just the facts, ma’am.
So, Jimmy is getting a better diet, getting kicked outside more often, and once the weather warms I’ll be taking him to the park for walks. Because frankly we’d like to keep him around for a few more years.
If your New Year’s Resolution was to drop a few pounds, or live a healthier life, maybe a better way to achieve that (by taking the focus off YOU) is to be conscious of your pet’s health: switch to healthier staples, incorporate more real unprocessed food, exercise frequently with bursts of intensity, and play regularly.
I’ll check in with Jimmy’s progress. You keep me up to date on yours.
Got a pet that could stand to lose a few?
Tell me about it. Please. I feel guilty.