By Christiane Cordero

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A local veterinarian is urging pet owners be mindful this holiday season of how much they feed their cats and dogs. She says there are a few simple tests people can do to gauge whether their pet’s weight is healthy.

The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention found in 2017 that 60 percent of cats and 56 percent of dogs were either overweight or obese. Those numbers have grown every year since the organization started measuring it a decade ago.

Dr. Julie Churchill, with the University of Minnesota, illustrated two tests that anyone can do with minimal effort.

The first test is visual. Pet owners can look at their animal from above and should notice a distinct waist line. The widest part of their bodies should be their chests.

The second test goes by feel.

“If you think about the back of your hand, you can feel each bone in the back of your hand, and that should [feel like] their ribs,” Churchill said. “I can easily count those ribs. So I can’t see them, but I can count them.”

She points to research that indicates even a little bit of extra weight could make a big difference in a pet’s health.

For most cats and dogs, the difference between having a 10 percent chance of getting arthritis and a 75 percent chance is just a few pounds. Healthier pets usually come with lower vet bills, too.

“When they’re obese, it increases heart disease, the risk of cancer, the risk of diabetes, arthritis,” Churchill said. “And more importantly, it can shorten life span by as much as two years. So to me, prevention is the number one thing, because this is a preventable condition.”

To help increase understanding, dog food manufacturer Royal Canin created a human-equivalent when it comes to dog treats. For dogs, one biscuit translates to a human eating one donut. Three ounces of ham is similar to eating two donuts, and one medium-sized rawhide bone is equivalent to a human eating seven donuts.

Christiane Cordero


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