our advice: ASK DR. CATE Vet Rap by Dr. Ryan Cate Helping Your Dog Live a Healthier Life Question: Dear Dr. Cate: Our dog was a chubby puppy who has turned into an overweight adult. What can we do to help him live a healthier life? 76 Answer: According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, over half of American cats and dogs are either overweight or obese. Like your pet, if your animal was a chubby kitten or puppy, odds are it will become an overweight older dog. The number of fat cells is determined when a dog is a puppy or a cat is a kitten, and once they are formed they are permanent. The reason that many companion animals become either overweight or obese is an excessive amount of caloric intake and a decreased amount of exercise. Just like us, our animals are suffering from the supersize mentality, and it’s affecting their overall health. Pet obesity can cause a host of problems in our animals. Skin infections from too many folds of skin, an increase of blood pressure that can lead to heart disease, diabe- tes, immunosuppression issues, as well as arthritis and other orthopedic disorders can all be traced back to our animals being too heavy. If you think your pet might be obese or overweight, first consult with your veterinarian to have them check that no underlying medical issues might be the cause. The doctor will do a body condition score and rate your dog or cat from one to nine. An animal that scores a one would be emaciated and underweight, while nine would be grossly obese. Then a number of tests will be performed which might include CBC, chemistry panel, thyroid panel and or a urinalysis. Your vet is testing for some specific reasons why your animal might be gain- ing weight. Some of the causes could be hypothyroid- ism, Cushing’s disease, or diabetes mellitus. These tests can rule these issues out and make sure it’s safe to start your pet on a diet and exercise regimen. If there are no underlying issues, the key to successfully getting your pet on the right track is to provide more caloric output than input. First, modify the amount and way you feed. Put the animal on a feeding schedule, and give them no more than 30 minutes to eat and then put the food away. Cut out all people food — it is never good for your dog or cat. Reduce snacks and change them to something healthier like vegetables or fruit, making sure you never give them grapes or raisins. Frozen green beans and peas are great treats and decrease the calorie intake. Working with your vet and online resources you can determine what [is] the ideal caloric intake for your breed, size and type of companion animal. When you have the food portion of the program in place, exercise will also help your pet slim down. When starting an exercise regimen, take into account your pet’s age and fitness level. You may need to start with just a few minutes of exercise a day to get up to twice per day for 15 minutes. Exercising twice per day will rev up their metabolism and get them on the right track for losing weight and getting healthier. This year Oct. 11, is Pet Obesity Awareness Day. Have your pet checked out by your vet and then set a goal for this date to have your pet on the right track to health. There are many online tools at the APOP’s website (petobesityprevention.org). You can find charts to determine the ideal weight for your type of dog, daily feeding and activity logs that you can fill out and discuss during your vet visit, even calorie counts for your animal’s favorite treats. Everyone wants their pet to live a long healthy life, and maintaining a healthy weight is a big part of keeping your pet healthy. Decreasing your pet’s weight will lead to an increase in its quality of life, and hopefully the length of time that it is part of your family.