By Maria-Jose Subiria
Gaining weight over the holidays is not just a problem for humans, but also for their four-legged friends.
Pets, mainly dogs and cats, are more likely to become obese over the holiday period, which runs from October, to December, according to Tate Dugan, spokesperson for FlexPet, a product of Flexcin International, Inc. The product is a joint-relief treatment for pets, he explained.
He said FlexPet has gathered data, which show that more pets are dealing with obesity during the holidays. "It's bad enough we overfeed ourselves during the holidays, but we shamelessly overfeed our pets during the holidays as well," said Dugan.
He said pets have evolved through the years and have become an actual member of the family, which makes table food more accessible. "Because of that, a lot of people want to include their pets during lunch- and dinner-time activities," said Dugan. Most owners, he said, serve pets the same portion size they would eat for dinner, and it's dangerous, because an average pet's frame is much smaller than a human's.
"We are talking about a 20-pound dog here, compared to a 200-pound man," said Dugan. "That is a huge difference when you are feeding the exact same portions."
If pets are frequently served large portions, they will rapidly reach obesity, he said. Pet owners should closely watch house guests who might be unaware of the dangers of overfeeding, or feeding pets specific foods they are not able to eat, said Dugan.
Dr. Jean Hofve, a Colorado, holistic veterinarian, who also is a pet-health consultant, said health maladies that will affect obese pets, include: arthritis, allergies, asthma, cancer, chronic diarrhea, chronic vomiting, constipation, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, inflammatory bowel disease, liver disease, pancreatitis, urinary tract disorders and skin and coat problems.
For information on what the average weight for a dog or cat of a particular breed should be, she said, visit the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention's web site at, http://www.petobesityprevention.com/ideal-weight-ranges/.
According to the web site, an estimated 58 percent of cats are overweight in the U.S., compared to 48 percent of dogs.
Overfeeding by leaving a bowl of food out "24/7" is a factor in pet obesity, Hofve said. A lack of exercise, specifically for indoor cats, is a factor, she said.
Hofve said pet owners can prevent pet obesity by giving their pets appropriate portion sizes, and providing an exercise regimen for the animals.
She said the best food diet for both dogs and cats is a low-carbohydrate, high-protein, high-in-moisture diet.
"[Canned], homemade, or raw foods are high in moisture, which will help fill your pet up, without the concentrated calories of dry food," Hofve said. "Additionally, proper supplementation, such as digestive enzymes, probiotics and omega-3 essential fatty acids, will help your pet utilize its food to best advantage."
Hofve said a healthy dog and cat should eat two, to three times a day on this diet.
She said it's easier to exercise with a dog than a cat. For obese dogs, a simple walk around the block is sufficient at first, but as the dog becomes healthier, walking, hiking and vigorous outdoor play are recommended.
Though cats are a little harder to convince, owners should participate in interactive play with a cat toy, such as a laser mouse. "It is fun and it builds strength and confidence," Hofve said. "A very overweight cat may only bat at the toy at first, but be persistent."