The overweight pets of SCV

Overweight five-year-old Chihuahua, Ziggy and owner Grecia Cardenas at the Central Park Dog Park in Saugus on Wednesday. Dan Watson/The Signal

Just like humans, pets don’t get overweight overnight. 

A growing number of pets are overweight and it might be time to start asking why.  If your pet is struggling to walk, becoming more lethargic, or quick to finish its food— those and many others are signs of a possible overweight pet. No matter how cute those little rolls may seem, it could pose a danger to their health. 

About 60% of cats and 56% of dogs were classified as overweight, according to the Association of Pet Obesity Prevention, or APOP, annual survey. Dr. Ernie Ward, founder of APOP, has built his career on creating a higher quality of life for animals, according to his website. 

“Obesity is the no. 1 health threat pets face, and the most important pet health decision owners make each day is what and how much they feed,” Ward’s website says. 

Though veterinarians may provide pet owners with a weight-loss plan for their pets, according to APOP, most owners stop the programs about 4-8 weeks after the initial diagnosis. Ward has an explanation for these low-success rates. 

“It is called a diet draft,” said Ward. “It becomes difficult for ourselves to maintain these habits because, at the end of the day, it’s hard to resist the puppy dog eyes.” 

Samantha Smith, who has a pug named Loaf, describes Loaf’s stature as overweight, but pretty solid. She takes him on two walks a day, yet he does not escape the 28- to 30-pound mark. “I gave up (on his diet) because I felt like I was starving him by just trying to get him to lose a couple of pounds,” said Smith. 

Owners seem to continue weight-loss programs if they see progress, but sometimes progress doesn’t come soon enough, according to Ward. Implementing a mindful eating mindset is a good alternative. This includes making sure what someone feeds their pet, provides some nutritional value. Simply switching from store-brand dog treats to baby carrots and celery are great substitutions. 

For dog owner Kellie Wesley, monitoring her dog’s health has always been a priority. Her dog Colt drinks filtered water and eats a raw diet. In addition, he also has a “fitbark” which monitors his activity and shows how his activity compares to other dogs. 

Everyone has their own way of caring for their dogs, but sometimes it is inevitable for some pets to gain weight. Some pets are overweight due to different medical conditions and the medication they take. For example, Grecia Cardenas’s dog Ziggy suffers from seizures, so he takes a seizure medication that causes weight gain. 

“We always just called him a ‘chonk,’ because he begs for food very assertively, said Cardenas. She once took him to the vet because he looked overweight, but she was assured that it was normal weight gain from the medication he was taking. 

Though Ziggy is overweight, Cardenas says that people are surprised to see how fast and agile he still is; however, a walk uphill is still a struggle. 

On the flip side, there are pets that become overweight over time, whether that be due to overeating or low activity. Regardless, their weight gain can happen right before the owner’s eyes.

Cat owner Becky Adler, used to leave her food out in the open for one of her skinnier cats, yet her heavier cat began indulging in the 24/7 food supply. Bo is now over 20 pounds. Even though he gets tired after playing for a few minutes, he will still try. 

For some owners, their overweight pets adapt to their lives and live without complications; unfortunately, that is not true for everyone. Elkie Whitmore and her cat Harley were not as lucky. 

When Whitmore found Harley at the Castaic shelter, Whitmore knew he was the cat for her. Over a year later after taking Harley home, he experienced a urinary tract infection, which she learned is common in older, heavier male cats. At this appointment, she also learned of his diabetes diagnosis. The vet presented three options: insulin, special food or euthansia. Right at that moment, she knew she had to turn his life around. 

“I opted for the food option and was prescribed science diet weight and digestion (for Harley),” said Whitmore. 

With Whitmore’s persistence and care, Bo went from 23 pounds to about 15 pounds. Whitmore explains that he is still on his weight-loss journey, and that his diabetes has not advanced. 

Implementing some healthy additions to your pet’s life is easier than it may seem.

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