Nearly half of Man’s best friends in the United States are overweight, and an estimated 30-40 percent of our feline friends are tipping the scales, too. Obesity is an epidemic and one of the most common and easily diagnosed diseases facing pets, pet owners and veterinarians.

Just as in humans, obesity has very real health consequences. Problems can range from musculoskeletal disease to skin, cardiac and digestive issues, an increased risk for diabetes, breathing problems (especially with Tucson’s summer heat) and even anesthetic complications.

On average, pets maintained at an ideal weight live more than one year longer than their obese counterparts.

You may be wondering if your pet is overweight. You should be able to easily feel your pet’s ribs using gentle to moderate pressure with a flat hand. From above, you should see a waistline or hourglass indentation in front of the hips. From the side view, you should see a waist, a pretty dramatic abdominal tuck beyond the ribs. “Love handles” or fat rolls around the tail or collar area are an indication of obesity.

If you have questions, ask your veterinarian to perform a Body Condition Score. This can give you more information than a numeric weight alone. Take caution in breed weight standards and guidelines as there can be a great variation in individuals.

So here is the truth. Aside from a few specific diseases and genetic predispositions, our pets are overweight because of us. We enjoy giving them treats. We work long hours. The asphalt is too hot to walk them. The amount you were told to feed them just doesn’t seem like enough. Fido is always begging for food, so he must need it.

The weight-loss answer is diet and exercise.

There are so many diet options available. Our favorite diets for weight loss and health maintenance are the higher protein, grain-free, more natural diets. Many pets will feel more satisfied and maintain more lean muscle when receiving a diet with higher protein content as compared to the high fiber, low calorie formulas.

Feed your pet two smaller meals a day. Try a Brake-Fast food bowl to slow down ravenous eaters. Use an actual measuring cup; portion control is key. Do not follow the feeding guidelines on the food bag; these are exaggerated. Add green beans, canned pumpkin and baby carrots as treats.

Frequent and controlled exercise is imperative. The most popular form is leash-walking but swimming, chasing laser pointers, games of fetch, playing at the dog park or doggy day care are great too. For pets with underlying medical issues or too obese to tolerate exercise, please consult with your veterinarian for a supervised weight loss program. Slentrol, a prescription weight-loss medication that helps to reduce appetite and facilitate weight loss, may be advised.

PAWS is unique in our ability to offer a veterinary-supervised weight-loss and exercise program. We provide nutritional counseling and can create a home-exercise program. In- clinic, we utilize a land and underwater treadmill. The land treadmill is housed in air-conditioned comfort; speed and incline can be adjusted based upon fitness level. The underwater treadmill creates buoyancy and resistance for effective but safe exercise. For any weight-loss program, PAWS advocates monthly weigh-ins, for which there is no fee.

So next time you are tempted to indulge your chubby dog, take him for a walk instead.

Watch the sunset and envision all the extra time you will have together on this beautiful planet.

P.A.W.S. Integrative Veterinary Center is located at 300 E. River Road in Tucson. Randy Aronson VMD, CCRT, CVA, is co-owner. His radio program, Radio Pet Vet, airs 8-10 a.m. each Saturday on KQTH 104.1 FM. Dr. Aronson can be reached by calling 888-7297 or by visiting

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